Renault, Caterham JV will revive Alpine brand
Renault and UK sports car maker Caterham Group are forming a joint venture to develop sports cars and plan to launch one model each within four years.
The deal will revive Renault's Alpine brand, which ceased production in the 1990s.
Caterham will take a 50 percent stake in the Societe des Automobiles Alpine Caterham (SAAC) venture, which will build the cars at Renault's plant in Dieppe in northern France.
Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said: "We're talking about several thousand vehicles a year."
Renault employs just over 300 people at the Dieppe facility to assemble sportier versions of the brand's car models.
The vehicles will put racecar engineering within reach of more customers than current Formula One-derived offerings from rivals, Caterham Chairman Tony Fernandes said at a news conference.
"If you look at Formula One, there's only Ferrari and McLaren, which are extremely expensive," Fernandes said. "We'll produce a car that many more people can afford with F1 technology," he said.
Renault sold its Formula One team in 2009-10 but continues to supply engines to four F1 teams including Caterham F1, which raced under the Team Lotus name until last year.
The companies declined to give details of pricing or sales targets.
The last decade has seen several mass carmakers dust off older names to roll out retro-styled compact cars commanding higher prices.
Fiat introduced a modern version of its iconic 500 in 2007, six years after BMW revived Mini. PSA/Peugeot-Citroen followed in 2009 with a range of upscale cars named after the iconic Citroen DS limousine.
"Sometimes people hold really warm feelings towards brands even if they haven't been around for a while," said Manfred Abraham, head of strategy at branding consultancy Interbrand.
Even if sales remain limited, performance car offerings can have a "halo effect" on mainstream models, Abraham said, citing a shift up-market by Volkswagen's Audi brand helped by its TT and R8 models.
Earlier this year, Renault said it was considering adding two upscale brands, including Alpine, as part of a move to further expand into emerging markets and decrease its reliance on Europe's shrinking volume car market.
Under the plan, Renault would eventually have four brands in total, with the Romania-based Dacia selling no-frills autos, Renault offering volume cars, Alpine serving as the sports car make and a fourth marque, the Initiale Paris, becoming a luxury brand.
Alpine was founded in the 1950s and became well-known among sports-car enthusiasts for the A110 and Berlinette, which was introduced in 1962.
In the mid-1960's Alpine signed a partnership with Renault and its cars were distributed through Renault dealers. A decade later, Renault bought a majority of Alpine before shutting down production of the brand in the 1990s.
Reuters contributed to this report