Push for Alpine to build electric sports cars

Renault set to review future of sports car brand – and Automotive Daily’s exclusive partner Autocar understands an EV-only switch is on the cards.

Renault has to “look very, very seriously” at the future of the Alpine brand, according to the firm’s chairman – and Autocar understand’s that it is poised to be turned into an all-electric performance brand in the future.

The sports car marque was revived by Renault in 2017 as a new performance sub-brand with the highly rated A110. That model and its various derivatives are built in Dieppe at a dedicated plant that was formerly home to Renault Sport.

But there have been questions about Alpine’s long-term future, with several key members of the A110 development team having left and the future of the Dieppe plant called into question. As part of a major AUD$3.13 billion cost-cutting drive by the Renault Group, it is staging an “open reflection” on the future of the Dieppe facility once production of the A110 ends.

Asked what that means for Alpine, Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard said: “Clearly, Alpine is a beautiful brand and we do have to look very, very seriously at the future of this brand to see how it can bring added value to the group.”

Senard said it was “quite obvious that we cannot continue as we are doing today” with the Dieppe factory. He added: “This plant does not manufacture enough vehicles for us to discuss its future serenely. We will look to continue to add value to the Dieppe plant.”

Senard said a final decision on Alpine’s future would be taken by incoming chief executive Luca de Meo, who is due to take up his role at the French firm in July.

As part of the major restructure announced today, the Renault Group will focus on the development of electric cars and sources have told Autocar that one idea being strongly considered is to turn Alpine into an electric-only performance halo sub-brand. That would allow the Renault Group to showcase the sporting aspects of its electric technology and potentially compete with premium rivals.

As well as its limited volume, Alpine’s Dieppe plant is currently unable to support the production of electric cars, so switching Alpine to a purely EV brand would mean either moving production to another Renault plant or a major refit of the existing factory.

Speaking to Autocar recently, Renault Group design chief Laurens van den Acker said “it’s inevitable that we’ll electrify Alpine” in the future. While that is in part due to the need to meet increasingly tougher emissions, he added: “We’re not only doing it because of the regulations. People’s expectations will shift and will push us into this direction.”

Using Alpine as a performance EV brand would tie in with de Meo’s creation of the Cupra sub-brand during his time running Seat. De Meo turned Cupra from a performance badge into a full sub-brand focused on ‘premium performance’ models that would frequently take the lead on new technology. The concept was that the upmarket Cupra brand would enable the firm to charge higher prices to increase profit margins and help offset the higher cost of new technology.

While the Alpine A110 has been a critical success, the two-seat sports car is a low-volume offering for Renault. The firm sold 4,835 Alpine models last year, compared with the 2.1 million cars sold by Renault and 655,000 by its budget European Dacia brand.

A key part of Renault’s cost-saving is a new arrangement with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance that will include greater shared development and production of key models. However, sports cars such as Alpine’s are not included in the ‘partner’ model lines listed as part of the Alliance announcement.

Jim Holder

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