Renault’s Alpine sports car sub-brand could eventually offer a range of models, including an SUV, and spearhead the Renault Group’s return to the US market. A decision on the make-up of the revamped standalone brand will be decided in early 2016.
As we know, Renault is re-launching the famous 60-year old French sports car brand Alpine in 2016, with the first new model in 20 years — a reborn ultra-lightweight A110 Berlinette two-seater coupe — expected to premiere at next year’s Paris motor show in September.
The reborn A110 will use a modified Renault platform and likely the Clio RS’ turbocharged 1.6-litre engine matched to a dual-clutch auto with paddles. It will have two seats, weight about a tonne and be made alongside said Clio is Dieppe, France, partially by hand.
Jerome Stoll, Renault’s second-in-command under CEO Carlos Ghosn, told media including CarAdvice this week of the company’s plans to grow and differentiate Alpine.
The early 2016 decision-making process will cover topics including making official “what we want to make with Alpine, what is to be the future product we are making, and what will be the future markets." A kind of global presentation as far as strategy is concerned, made by the CEO.
“[It’s to] not only develop one car, but develop a range,” he said. “So we have three cars in mind. Not only for Europe, but for the rest of the world. We are contemplating China, looking at maybe the US. Everything is for the time-being on paper.
“The decision,” Stoll said, “is to be taken early next year”, with the final call to be made by Ghosn.
So, what about an Alpine crossover SUV? “Maybe,” said Stoll. Would this dilute the brand? “I don’t think so.”
Stoll then discussed the re-launch’s genesis, the reborn Berlinette coupe, and of his experience with the new model so far.
“We have to restart the brand with DNA which is Berlinette, an updated Berlinette, the good couple of power and weight. Actually I drive prototype already, and frankly it’s amazing. I’m not a pilot specialist, but had plenty of fun with my poor driving.
“What makes this car fun is whatever your level of driving, you can get fun. This is what makes the product attractive,” he said, acknowledging when pressed repeatedly that the car he drove had an auto (likely dual-clutch) gearbox and paddle-shifters, rather than a manual.
The crucial thing to Alpine’s health, said Stoll, would be to let it run largely independently under CEO Bernard Ollivier, thereby differentiating it from Renault Sport, which focuses on Renault derivatives (though also helped develop the Alpine’s chassis).
“Alpine for me is a brand which is very relevant in terms of strategy to revamp. The question is for me very simple. Renault, I don’t know whether there is an English word, is an eponym word, you know when the name of the brand is also the name of the company,” he said.
“We have to move from this… to have a sign which is quite different from the name of the group. You have Renault brand and Renault Group. Renault Group is Renault, Dacia, Renault-Samsung Motors and Alpine.
“Alpine should be part of the portfolio, and not be something attached or depending on Renault brand.
“My conviction is Alpine will bring all the value from revamping if it’s really disconnected from Renault. Not completely in terms of tech, et cetera, but being in terms of brand marketing. I don’t want ‘Alpine product by Renault’ or ‘Renault-Alpine’ et cetera.
“We have to play Alpine with its uniqueness, specific positioning, customer clusters. And if some of the people see it’s Alpine by Renault they, especially in Europe, might be a little inclined to downgrade the value. ‘If it’s a Renault I will not pay et cetera…”
One interesting element in all this is the fact that Stoll hinted at selling the Alpine in the US. Renault products are not sold there, but as he said, Alpine would be separated in more general terms. The key is Renault Alliance partner Nissan, which has a large presence in the US, and leveraging those distribution channels.
“There might be an interest for some Nissan organisation to have this kind of product next to other one. [It] would be separate anyway,” Stoll said.