The iconic Alpine brand is set for a complete revival with the Renault-owned brand well underway to produce its first model by 2016.
Alpine, which has been around since 1954, is renowned around the world for producing such iconic cars as the A110 and Alpine V6 Turbo Le Mans. In its long and colourful history, Alpine has only produced around 30,000 cars, but the re-launch is set to bring the brand closer to mainstream appeal with a higher volume expectation than ever before.
Under the watchful eyes of Bernard Ollivier, the Alpine project, which is a 50:50 joint venture between Renault and Caterham, is destined to bring back lightweight sport cars with a desire to tackle twisty terrain.
Speaking to the Australian media at today’s Geneva Motor Show, Ollivier was adamant that the new Alpine will pay homage to its roots while bringing a modern and serious approach to sport car manufacturing.
Ollivier, who had been previously in charge of RenaultSport and saw the Clio RS and Megane RS come to fruition, is tasked with creating a lightweight sportscars that will satisfy the needs of both Alpine and Caterham.
“My challenge is to design two cars, because the brands Alpine and Caterham are not so far but different. No so far because if you know the two brands, the DNA of the two brands is [about] the power to weight [ratio]. The two brands have very light cars and not very powerful engines. This point is very important for us.” Ollivier said.
He noted that although Alpine is owned by Renault, it’s going to build its own unique car.
“Alpine is not Renault, it’s a brand of the Renault group, but not a brand of Renault. So the DNA of the Alpine and Renault brand are different.”
The upcoming Alpine and Caterham sports cars are currently without competition, according to Ollivier, who sees the likes of Lotus as low volume niche cars unlikely to compete. He believes Alpine will take sales away from Porsche buyers, who are looking for something more unique.
“A lot of our future customers will come probably from Porsche, only because Porsche is too strong in the market.”
Alpine expects to sell around 5,000 of its sport cars in the first year with around 25,000 for the life of the project.
“Our ambition is worldwide and we think of course Europe is important but we think many countries where they are many clubs, for instance many countries which don’t know alpine brand also, I think for instance Russia, China, India, but also Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Australia”
Ollivier confirmed that the Alpine and Caterham cars will be produced for both left and right hand drive markets, while Renault Australia boss, Justin Hocevar, confirmed to CarAdvice that Australia has already put its hands up for Alpine cars when they become available in three years time.
Both Ollivier and Renault’s head of design, Mr Laurens Van den Acker, acknowledged that the Alpine A110-50 concept seen at last year’s Monaco Grand Prix is not a good representation of what Alpine will bring in 2016.
“The Alpine concept car was a monster – we needed a monster for the Monaco GP.” Acker said. Noting that it was built on a Megane body, which is not the case for the production Alpine vehicle’s of the future.
“I need to give them an Alpine A110 with a twist – I can’t give them a straight copy. We need to give them that plus make it contemporary and modern and make it appeal to people who never thought about buying a sport car. Need to modernize, make it relevant and capture the expression of the model” Acker said when asked what the new Alpines will look like
As for whether or not the cars will be front wheel drive or all wheel drive, Ollivier said that will remain a surprise until a later date.
Although Caterham and Alpine will share the development cost and engineering of their sports car, Caterham will design its own unique car.
"Caterham will do their own design, we cannot do what Subaru and Toyota did [with BRZ/86], that’s impossible." Acker said.