In a Paris motor show interview with CarAdvice, Alpine CEO Bernard Ollivier described the positioning of the Alpine as “somewhere between a Porsche Cayman and an Alfa 4C.”
“Porsche Cayman, why? It is of course a very good car, but it’s very premium especially for the interior design, it’s very easy to be used daily.
“In the other side, 4C is very, very frugal, very simple … and it’s not very practical for the daily use.”
“Where is Alpine? Alpine will be premium, with a French touch. Very free, very simple … for France, not for Germany. [We will be] not like a Porsche. We will be very simple, not many accessories, only what is needed for the driving of the car. But very, very good materials, premium materials. And daily use, very important for us. A very real sports car, agility, a rocket, so … like 4C.”
Two years on from the reveal of the (pictured) Alpine A110-50 concept, a clearly enthusiastic Ollivier explained that around 2000 to 3000 units will be built per year when the new Alpine launches in 2016 and confirmed that “the car will go in Australia, of course, it will be right-hand drive of course”.
But it literally won’t be anything like a Caterham, following the divorce of Renault from the UK brand that purchased half of the brand from Renault in 2012.
Caterham was expected to assist with the costs of creating the new Alpine, and while Ollivier says Renault’s 50 per cent repurchase of Alpine was amicable, there “was a difficulty from Renault because the separation had an important impact on the profitability of the project”.
Despite this, however, the CEO adds that “we continued because frankly everyone in the top management thinks the car is absolutely fantastic, everyone in Renault is ready to help us because Alpine is great”.
That also means Alpine can “get the best of the Renault group” including borrowing key ingredients from its Alliance partner Nissan.
“Alpine can make quite affordable cars, but very strong sports cars, because we can use all the parts of Renault in the past and now the Alliance [with Nissan],” Ollivier continues. “We can get parts very competitively, it’s essential for the strategy. If it wasn’t possible, we couldn’t be affordable. We will be less expensive than a Cayman, because of that.”
Yet because Ollivier nominates lightness and agility as the most important points for the Alpine, both the body and rear-wheel-drive chassis will be Alpine exclusives, with the aim of delivering a circa-1000kg kerb weight similar to the Alfa 4C.
He confirms the engine will be a four-cylinder turbocharged unit, but adds that “the engine is a derivative of an existing engine”, almost certainly locking in the Renault Clio RS and Nissan Pulsar/Juke 1.6-litre direct-injection four-cylinder as the powertrain of choice.
What the engine mates to, however, is more of a mystery. Asked whether a manual transmission is essential, Ollivier gasps at the question.
“Ahhh! I won’t give you the exact solution we have chosen, but … I explained the modernity [and] in five or 10 years it’s finished the manual transmission. Today we have to choose for our customers what is the best solution.”
Meanwhile Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar has pointed to Alpine being sold in Australia only through specialist Renault dealerships who have a connection with the brand.
“In one instance you could have a vision of stand-alone stores, temples devoted to Alpine, but you have to make this a commercial reality,” he explained. “We would be following a very similar pricing strategy as here in Europe - so if you say it’s positioned between the two [4C and Cayman] then we’d follow the same.”
Asked whether that means a circa-$90K price tag, Hocevar responded: “I don’t think it will be anywhere near that high, that would be the absolute upper end … depending on the final value proposition we see, that’s going to help us decide what price, but it’s certainly going to be north of the $60K mark and south of the $90K mark.”