Alpine to rescale the heights
IT’S taken 20 years, a return to LeMans and three concepts but the revival of Renault’s Alpine performance arm is nearly complete.
In 2017, Alpine will launch a new production sports car to stand above the rest of the Renault line-up. The aim is to embody the DNA of the giantkilling originals that took rally and circuit racing by storm in the 1960s and 70s.
At the marque’s 60th anniversary celebrations — in the home town of Dieppe, France — Alpine CEO Bernard Ollivier cites elegant design, light weight, comfort and performance more suited to linking tight curves than autobahn top speed as key parts of that DNA.
A less aggressive look than most performance models is expected to make Alpine more appealing to women buyers and, unlike the past four generations, the new model will be designed for global sales.
Several countries showed interest in the ill-fated joint venture with boutique British sports car builder Caterham in 2012. This fell apart last year but the buyer interest convinced Renault that it could go one-out and still make a profit.
Ollivier says there was sufficient interest to justify developing right-hand drive versions, in addition to the lefthand layout of its expected biggest market, France.
This also reflects the sales success of the existing Renault Sport models in right-hand drive markets of Japan, Australia and Britain, with the only left-hand markets in the RS top five being France and Germany.
“We could not afford to ignore markets like Australia and Japan. We know it’s important,” says Ollivier.
“This is the reason [Australian media] are here. There is some strategy in showing you the story of Alpine.” However Renault Australia boss Justin Hocevar warns that Alpine is yet to get the green light from local product planners.
Ollivier says the new model has been gone further up the price scale since Caterham’s departure but is guarded on the final figure.
“It is difficult to understand what the value of Alpine is, how much customers are willing to pay for Alpine compared with Porsche, BMW etc,” he says.
“We cannot make the mistake of it being too expensive. We know that Alpine does not have the same image as Porsche.”
This may translate to somewhere more than the $74,990 Lotus Elise, $89,000 Alfa Romeo 4C or $106,200 Porsche Cayman starting prices or even closer to the $149,900 BMW M4 coupe — but less than the $208,200 entry price for a Porsche 911.
The Dieppe plant will finalise suppliers by the end of the month and start production by the end of 2016.
Initial deliveries will be another matter as Ollivier wants to get the cars right rather than meeting a deadline. “There will be no other car if my first car is not a success,” he says.
Ollivier was responsible for creating the now hugely successful Renault Sport hot hatch line in 2000 and is clear about Alpine’s point of difference.
“Renault Sport customers are generally young and need one car that can do everything from the school run, to track days, supermarket trips and vacations,” he says.
“An Alpine is different. It is not for family but all about pleasure. It is a second, third or fourth vehicle you do not need but want.”