Cater­ham among the pi­geons

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Car News - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

THE tiny Bri­tish sports car com­pany that will help bring Alpine back fromthe dead is fi­nally ac­cel­er­at­ing into the 21st cen­tury. Cater­ham cars is now plan­ning amodel range that will in­clude SUVs and city run­abouts along­side its 1950sin­spired sports cars.

It is also well ad­vanced with its work on a joint ven­ture with Re­nault that will re­vive the Alpine name in 2016 on a sports car to be shared be­tween the com­pa­nies, in a deal sim­i­lar to the one that spawned the Subaru BRZ and Toy­ota 86.

Cater­ham has just shown its new­est model, the Aero Seven Con­cept, but it’s the model ex­pan­sion that’s the real news. “In the very near fu­ture, the Cater­ham name will sit proudly on crossovers, city cars as well as a range of sports cars for ev­ery­one,” says Cater­ham Group co-chair­man Tony Fer­nan­des.

“Cater­ham will show it­self to be a pro­gres­sive, open and en­trepreneuri­ally pow­ered car brand that will de­liver and sur­prise in equal mea­sure. It has been a Bri­tish in­sti­tu­tion for the last 40 years, and an au­to­mo­tive se­cret in many ways. We­may be a small voice now but we’re on our­way to en­gi­neer­ing a de­cent set of lungs.”

Cater­ham is best known as the mod­ern maker of the old­school Seven that­was orig­i­nally de­signed and de­vel­oped by Colin Chap­man, the bril­liant en­gi­neer whowas the force behind the Lo­tus team in For­mula One and road cars.

The Aero Seven Con­cept picks up the orig­i­nal think­ing from Chap­man’s time and drives it in a car that still has a front­mounted en­gine and RWD, even if it’s the first Cater­ham with techno tweaks in­clud­ing trac­tion and launch con­trol.

Fer­nan­des says the AeroSeven pulls tech­nol­ogy from through­out the com­pany, in­clud­ing the car­bon fi­bre ex­per­tise of the Cater­ham F1 out­fit, aGP tailen­der.

There is no pro­duc­tion plan for the AeroSeven, and Cater­ham’s Aus­tralian boss Chris vanWyk says he has only just heard about the SUV and city car projects.

“It’s ex­cit­ing news. It’s just nice to see there are de­vel­op­ment funds,” says van Wyk of the SUV and city car projects. “It used to be a case of sur­vival, but sud­denly there are doors open­ing every­where. I don’t think peo­ple un­der­stand the breadth of the com­pany yet. They are even mak­ing air­line seats out of car­bon fi­bre us­ing For­mula One tech­nol­ogy.”

Fer­nan­des is the driving force behind AirAsia, now claimed to be the most prof­itable air­line in theworld, but is also de­vot­ing plenty of ef­fort to Cater­ham.

“The joint ven­ture with Re­nault ... demon­strates our clear in­tent on do­ing this right, do­ing it sen­si­bly but above all, do­ing it the Cater­ham way,” Fer­nan­des says.

“We’re a flat com­pany, we’re a quicker com­pany. Whenwe say we’re go­ing to do things in­ter­nally, we do them. We don’t pro­cras­ti­nate and lose mo­men­tum through le­gions of mid­dle-man­age­ment de­ci­sion mak­ers, we just do it.”

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