06 November 2012

Caterham and Renault to revive Alpine sports car

Caterham and Renault announced yesterday that they will pair up to revive the Alpine sports car. Together both companies formed a 50:50 joint venture company called Societe des Automobiles Alpine Caterham (SAAC) and will be led by CEO, Bernand Ollivier (Renault man since 1977). 

In the collaboration, Renault will contribute is Dieppe plus 300 workforce for the project while Caterham will provide the engineering expertise as well as the aforementioned 50% capital. The first output is expected in 2015 at the earliest and rumoured to be inspired the fame Alpine 110 from 1960's.

Renault's Dieppe factory is the specialised facility, experienced in manufacturing Renault's special product. It used to make RS Clio, RS Twingo, RS Megane, Megane soft-top as well manufactured the composite-bodied Espace MPV. 

The detail of the product is scarce, however with the hint of 110 model, both Caterham and Alpine will have their own distinctive model. This makes perfect sense as the low volume exclusive for one brand solely won't make the cut in terms of techno-economics these days. It is rumoured that Alpine version would be the closed-coupe, while the Caterham will the roadster, close to its traditional product line-up.

The configuration of the car is not yet revealed despite the on-going engineering background work currently being done. The powertrain unit could be the new Renaultsport direct-injection 1.6L turbo unit pumping 200bhp or more likely the 2.0L unit from Megane Cup kicking healthy 265bhp. However, the new joint company has recruited some big names to make the project kicks, including Mike Gascoyne F1 designer and Tony Shute, the Lotus Elise main man.

The Malaysian-owner of Caterham, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said " I have not felt as excited about a new venture since I launched AirAsia in 2001 and I want to thank Carlos Ghosn and Carlos Tavares and everyone in our new Renault family for having the belief in Caterham Group to create this partnership".

Tan Sri Tony Fernandes also hinted that Caterham core model, the Seven won't be left out. Even the new sports car will be affordable with around GBP35k price-tag. "In F1 only Ferrari and McLaren produce road cars and they are exceedingly expensive. The affordability of our car will be key. If we get the quality and price it will sell, recession or not recession".

The head of the Caterham is ambitious too, outlining his vision of the future product line-up." For the Asian market, I would very much like to get into the crossover market and maybe produce a city car". Well, perhaps Caterham could kick it well, but Proton ultimately to get their Proton "Sepang" (Elise-based, later rebadged as a Lotus Europa) and Proton MSX (aluminium crossover with supercharged V6 way BMW X6 exists).

For the uninformed, Caterham is the British sports car company specialising in producing low-volume lightweight sports car. Tony Fernandes took control in 2011 and immediately renamed his F1 team (then Lotus Racing) in the middle of the melee of the embarrassing naming dispute that year.

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