MICHAEL VAN DER SANDE

Torque (Singapore) - - FACES - STORY TONY TAN

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.

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