Renault goes it alone on Alpine sports car

Renault Caterham Alpine

RENAULT has seized control of Alpine, the sub-brand that has spawned some of its most exciting cars, ending a brief relationship with British sports car brand Caterham.

The announcement that the French car maker had bought Caterham’s stake in Alpine – the badge worn by the likes of the iconic Renault-engined A110 – means that the two brands will now work separately on developing a line of sports cars.

“Following a mutual agreement between Renault and Caterham Group, Renault has increased its stake in Société des Automobiles Alpine Caterham to 100 percent, following acquisition of the interest held by Caterham Group,” Renault said in a brief statement announcing the year-old partnership had dissolved.

“Renault will now continue to develop its own Alpine sports car to be launched in 2016, as initially planned. Caterham Group also plans to continue with its own sports car.”

However, while both car makers will chase their own sports car dreams, the pair said there was still scope to work together “in line with each company’s strategic policy directions”.

The move to dissolve the partnership was flagged earlier this year, but took until now to become official.

Caterham had said its version of the sports car would “lay the foundations for an expansive product family that will deliver ‘accessible fun’ to new markets”, suggesting the new platform would spin-off several models.

Caterham’s new sports model was to be built alongside Renault’s version at the French car maker’s Dieppe factory that formerly built Alpine sports cars, and is today the home of Renault’s performance arm, Renault Sport.

Renault has described its version of the sports car, due in 2016, as a “berlinette for the 21st century”, a reference to the low-slung, two-door Alpine A110 Berlinette sports car built in the 1960s and 70s, and which dominated world rallying in 1973.

However, the next-generation, modern-day Alpine-badged version of the classic is expected to be based on the front-engined all-wheel-drive platform that underpins the current-generation Nissan GT-R via Renault’s partnership with the Japanese car maker.

A concept of the new-age berlinette released in 2012, the A110-50, borrows heavily from the original car’s design, although this time around clad in an expensive carbon fibre outer skin.

It features a rear-mounted 300kW 3.5-litre V6 engine fed via a roof-mounted air intake, and a six-speed sequential gearbox.

Although not officially earmarked for production, Renault said the concept car borrowed heavily from design cues that will eventually roll out across future models.

The privately owned Alpine was bought out by Renault in 1973, and was shelved by the brand in 1993 in response to the rising cost of developing a specialised line of sports cars in the face of increasing competition.

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