RAC Cars News


Caterham - Renault Alpine Joint Venture

By raccars Published

British Caterham is sharing resources with the French sports specialist, Renault Alpine – of whose Dieppe assembly plant it is 50% owner - to produce a new two seater sports car for the premium market. The companies have formed a subsidiary in which they are equal shareholders for the project and the first car is planned for release next year at the price of £35,000.

Caterham is jumping into what it sees as a gap left by Lotus and hoping to win the hearts of the rather neglected female professional consumer base. A limited production run is planned, with Caterham planning 3,000 units annually and Alpine will get to share 70% of components. This is a massive leap from the company's current 500 unit output.

A 2.0 litre Renault engine has already been rejected, with 1.6 and 1.8 litre powerplant options now under consideration, with the aim of producing 300bhp. Caterham is planning to utilise modern technology, such as Formula One's KERS regenerative braking system, to emphasise the car's sporting character.

The thoroughly British Caterham is looking East for volume sales, particularly Malaysia, as most of the premium brands have already seen success in Asia. As a niche brand, Caterham is hoping the new car will help to define its image in the emerging Eastern market. However, expect the company's profile to grow both at home and abroad, as along with the joint venture car for the premium sector, Caterham has also recently announced a new entry level model for £15,000, replacing its Classic 7.

Next year's Geneva Motor Show is likely to be the venue for the debut of the production version of the new car, with a line up including an initial entry level model, complemented by GT and Speed models later on.

For its part, Alpine's vehicle will be priced slightly higher at around £50,000 and will be gunning for the Porsche Boxster on a performance level. Reports from the company in March noted the Alpine A110's influence upon its design, which will apparently be very different from the Caterham version on the outside. Despite the Caterham input, Alpine is campaigning the car on its Frenchness and is hoping it will play a significant part in helping to rebuild the brand.

The two allies were recently in competition at the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race, both running the same Nissan 4.5 litre V8 engine in different cars in the LMP2 category.

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