Alpine likely to pros­per de­spite Re­nault cut­backs

Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion key to per­for­mance brand’s con­tin­ued suc­cess un­der new lead­er­ship, writes Hilton Hol­loway

Bangkok Post - - MOTORING -

Re­nault’s tiny Alpine sub-brand is likely to see a sig­nif­i­cant ex­pan­sion even as the French car­maker makes sig­nif­i­cant cut­backs in the wake of the global pan­demic. De­spite sell­ing just 4,400 of its alu­minium mid-en­gined A110 model in 2019, a leaked in­ter­nal memo re­ported by Bloomberg sug­gests that new Re­nault boss Luca de Meo wants to see Alpine line-up ex­pand and even move into a ‘se­ries of small elec­tric cars.’

The memo was said to re­fer to Alpine hav­ing a ‘Porsche 911 pro­gramme’, some­thing which could de­velop into the brand rolling out a wider range of high-per­for­mance vari­ants and lim­ited-edi­tions, in a way that has char­ac­terised the Ger­man sports car over decades.

With light­ness at the core of the Alpine project is seems un­likely that fu­ture vari­ants will get en­gines big­ger than four-cylin­ders but higher out­puts - head­ing be­yond 300bhp - seem likely, as does a hy­brid four-pot driv­e­train.

On the other side of the ledger, other fu­ture ver­sions of the A110 are likely to em­pha­sise weight sav­ing and an even purer driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The cur­rent model weighs in around 1,100kg.

The po­ten­tial for a sub-tonne A110 is clear.

The Alpine is brand is clearly of sig­nif­i­cant im­por­tance to Re­nault as its be­comes the face of the com­pany’s mo­tor­sport ef­forts.

As well as the Re­nault F1 re-brand­ing as Alpine for the 2021 sea­son, Alpine will en­ter a car in the LMP1 class in the FIA World En­durance Cham­pi­onship.

The leaked memo also sug­gested that Alpine might ‘spawn a se­ries of small elec­tric cars’. These might be the new mod­els re­cently hinted at by Alpine Man­ag­ing Direc­tor Pa­trick Mari­noff.

He re­cently told Autocar “there will be Alpine mod­els com­ing up. We can’t tell you ex­actly when and what, but the mo­men­tum be­hind the Alpine brand is very strong, and our new CEO, Luca de Meo, is a pro­moter of Alpine as a brand.”

This raises the in­trigu­ing pos­si­bil­ity that Re­nault may launch a new vari­ant of the best-sell­ing Zoe as a more sport­ing ‘hot hatch’ us­ing the Alpine brand.

The logic of such a move is im­pec­ca­ble: EVs have sparkling per­for­mance but are cur­rently styled and mar­keted as low-im­pact eco-friendly trans­port.

An Alpine EV could open a new mar­ket for Re­nault and give it the jump on the rest of in­dus­try. The com­pany has pre­vi­ously ex­per­i­mented with per­for­mance EVs, pro­duc­ing a con­cept Zoe e-Sport with 460bhp, though it never reached pro­duc­tion.

Alpine’s ex­pand­ing role comes in stark con­trast to the rest of Re­nault, which could see even big­ger cuts that al­ready an­nounced, ac­cord­ing to the leaked memo.

In May cuts of around €2bn were an­nounced but these might be deep­ened over the next two years be­cause of the maker’s ‘dire cash po­si­tion.’

Re­nault could cut its model range by 30% and in­crease the price of smaller cars by 25-30%.

The lat­ter hints at both re­vers­ing a pol­icy of show­room dis­count­ing and the ex­tra cost of build­ing more main­stream hy­brid mod­els.

The memo sug­gested that Re­nault’s patchy prof­itabil­ity record had been pow­ered mainly by fi­nan­cial ser­vices and af­ter­mar­ket sales rather mak­ing money from car sales.

Re­nault may launch a new ver­sion of the Zoe as a sport­ing hot hatch.

Alpine is to have a wider range of high-per­for­mance vari­ants.

The brand could see a se­ries of small elec­tric cars.

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