Renault and Caterham are to join forces and build a new range of sports car models together from early 2013, under the classic Alpine badge, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn confirmed today.
At a press conference in Paris, he announced a new Anglo-French partnership which will spawn a new breed of sports cars for both brands. 'This innovative partnership with Caterham embodies a longstanding ambition: the creation of a sports car with the Alpine DNA,' said Ghosn. 'It carries both opportunities for the Dieppe plant and the development of its historic expertise.'
Caterham is taking a 50% stake in Automobiles Alpine Renault, currently 100% owned by Renault. A new company – Société des Automobiles Alpine Caterham – will be created in January 2013, led by Renault stalwart Bernard Ollivier.
The new company will build sports cars for Alpine and Caterham at the Alpine plant in Dieppe, Normandy. It's an intriguing prospect: our appetites have already been whetted by the A110-50 concept car and they'll benefit from know-how from the RenaultSport chassis wizards who've created many of CAR's favourite hot hatches of recent years and the lightweight experts from Caterham.
Why is Alpine making a comeback?
It's the culmination of a long-held plan to make the numbers work on a sports car sub-brand for Renault, which had wanted to revive Alpine just as the financial crisis struck in 2008. Unsurprisingly, the project was put on the back-burner.
Shoots of recovery were seen with the Megane Trophy racing car-based Alpine A110-50 earlier in 2012. The well-received concept had a 395bhp output and racecar-spec aerodynamics, but the new road-going Alpine models are likely to be pared-back far more in the Caterham vein.
Sadly, no concrete model details have been issued yet by either party.
When will we see the new Alpine and Caterham sports cars?
Both Renault and Caterham will bring their own version of the new car to market within three to four years, according to company forecasts. The cars will be jointly engineered using technology from both sides of the Channel, but built exclusively at the Alpine plant in Dieppe.
Dieppe was responsible for the original Alpine A110, and today handles manufacture of the outgoing RenaultSport Clio, and the rather different new 2013 Clio RS, with paddleshift gearbox and turbo engine only.
CAR expects the new Alpine-Caterham sports cars to be lightweight, full-bodied cars rather than semi-open-wheel, lightweight specials like a Caterham Seven or Renault Spider.
Think more along the lines of the Alfa Romeo 4C and you won't be far wide of the mark: ditto the expected £35-£45k price tag.