MICHAEL VAN DER SANDE
MANAGING DIRECTOR ALPINE
THE boss of Alpine (before he left to join Jaguar Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations) is a Dutchman who has seen, and done, a lot in the world of cars.
Born in the Netherlands in 1965 and equipped with an MBA from Nyenrode Business University, Michael has been with many brands since he first stepped foot in the automotive industry.
From 1991 till September 2013, he has worked for Nissan Europe, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Tesla Motors, and Aston Martin. In between his tenures with Nissan and Rolls-Royce/Bentley, he was at Harley-Davidson, the only non-car brand on his resume.
He joined the Renault Group in 2013 as Senior Vice President, Marketing. Interestingly, in all his previous companies, marketing was always part of his portfolio, if not his only responsibility.
Since March 2016, he has been Managing Director of Alpine, a role which he clearly relishes as he can leverage his years of marketing experience to continue with the revival of a boutique car brand which had been dormant since 1995.
What went through your mind when you were asked by Renault to be the head of Alpine?
It was truly exciting! I have loved cars since I was a boy. When I joined Renault in October of 2013 as the Marketing Director, the Alpine brand had already been launched and I was aware of the work that was going on. Hence, to be appointed as the head of a brand that is a specialist in manufacturing sports cars is as good as it gets.
Why was the A110 the chosen car to reintroduce Alpine?
The original A110 Berlinette exemplified what made Alpine, Alpine. It was light and had marvellous handing, and it was also successful at rallying (World Rally Champions in 1973). The management team did float other models, but at the end of the day, the A110 was the obvious choice.
Why reuse “A110” and not create another name?
The usage of A110 was considered quite early into the project, but it was only confirmed just before the 2017 Geneva Motor Show. We decided after finally being able to drive the pre-production model and realising that we had made a car which was a true successor to the original A110 Berlinette.
What was considered when designing and making the A110?
It had to be light, but still comfortable to live with daily.
As a reference, we looked at the best sports cars in the market and we didn’t target just one. For example, the Alfa Romeo 4C and Lotus models are light, but compromise on comfort and luxury. On the other hand, the Porsche Cayman and Audi TT have a pliant ride and decent equipment levels, but are substantially heavier. So, we made a coupe which took the best features from all these cars and combined it with styling which paid homage to the A110 Berlinette. In essence, we have achieved a perfect balance between heritage and modernity.
TO BE APPOINTED AS THE HEAD OF A BRAND THAT IS A SPECIALIST IN MANUFACTURING SPORTS CARS IS AS GOOD AS IT GETS.
What are the estimated sales targets and expected production numbers?
I cannot divulge exact figures, but I can tell you that we expect to make cars in the thousands annually and not tens of thousands. Our first 1955 “launch” cars, aptly named the Premiere Edition, were sold out in five days after we announced their availability.
What is the next Alpine model in the pipeline?
We don’t know yet, but we do know that the range will be expanded to around four to six models in the future, and all of them will be light and agile, yet useable daily, like the A110.
What are your favourite cars?
My favourite Renault is the R5 Turbo and my favourite Alpine is the A110 Berlinette, which I am unable to get into! As for non-Groupe Renault cars, the Alfa Romeo SZ is my choice, and I have owned one for around five years now! The engine sounds fantastic and it drives very well.
If you had one litre of petrol left, which car would you use it in?
That would be the new Alpine A110, and I would drive it on the roads of southern France, where the media drives were held. The car was made for the undulating and twisty B-roads. However, there is one problem: One litre of petrol will not be enough!
Michael’s favourite cars include the Renault 5 Turbo and Alpine A110 Berlinette.