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Alpine a strong chance for Australia

A new Alpine sports car could be making its way to Australia when the brand relaunches in 2017.

New era of Renault's performance arm includes right-hand drive and Australia in its production plans.

It's taken three concepts, a return to Le Mans and 20 years, but the revival of Renault's Alpine performance arm is approaching completion.

In 2017, Alpine will launch a new production sports car to stand above the rest of the Renault lineup, and designed to embody the DNA of the giant-killing originals that took rally and circuit racing by storm in the 60s and 70s.

Speaking with CarsGuide at Alpine's 60th anniversary celebrations in its hometown of Dieppe this week, Alpine CEO Bernard Ollivier defined this unique DNA as elegant design, light weight build, comfortable ride, and with performance more suited to linking tight curves than going at top speed on the autobahn.

Ollivier notes design elegance as a key element of this DNA, with a less aggressive look than most performance models expected to make the Alpine more appealing to female buyers. 

Unlike the past four generations, the new Alpine will be designed for a global stage, catering to several markets whose ears were pricked by the announcement of the ill-fated joint venture with boutique UK sports car builder Caterham in 2012.

This plan fell apart in 2014, but the buyer interest generated convinced Renault that they could go it alone and still make a profit.

Ollivier confirmed that this interest was broad enough to justify development for right-hand drive markets, in addition to the left-hand layout of its expected biggest market of France.

We could not afford to ignore markets like Australia and Japan

This also reflects the sales success of the existing Renault Sport models in right-hand drive markets of Japan, Australia and the UK, with the only left-hand markets in the RS top five being France and Germany.

"We could not afford to ignore markets like Australia and Japan. We know it's important," explained Ollivier.

"This is the reason you [Australian media] are here. There is some strategy in showing you the story of Alpine," he added.

However Renault's Australian boss Justin Hocevar warns that the Alpine is yet to get the official green light from local product planners.

Ollivier admits that the new model has been repositioned further up the price scale since Caterham's exit, but would not be drawn on the actual figure.

"We think our challenge is difficult, trying to relaunch the brand," he said.

"It is difficult to understand what the value of Alpine is, how much customers are willing to pay for Alpine compared with Porsche, BMW etc. We cannot make the mistake of it being too expensive. We know that Alpine does not have the same image as Porsche," he added.

It is not for family, but all about pleasure

We expect this to translate to somewhere more than the $74,990 Lotus Elise, $89,000 Alfa Romeo 4C or $106,200 Porsche Cayman starting prices, and be closer to the $149,900 BMW M4 coupe. Ollivier's words point to a figure less than the $208,200 entry price for a Porsche 911 too.

The Dieppe manufacturing plant is set to finalise its suppliers within the fortnight and is working toward production by the end of 2016, but Ollivier would not be pressed on when the first buyers will take delivery.

His objective is to ensure that the product is right rather than meeting a production deadline.

"There will be no other car if my first car is not a success," he affirmed.

Ollivier is also clear in his definition between the Alpine and Renault Sport performance brands, having also been responsible for creating the now hugely successful hot hatch line in 2000.

"Renault Sport customers are generally young, and need one car that can do everything from the school run, to track days, supermarket trips and vacations."

"An Alpine is different. It is not for family, but all about pleasure. It is a second, third or fourth vehicle you do not need, but want," he added.

Ollivier also scuppered the notion of an RS badge ever appearing on an Alpine.

"The DNA is different. Do you see a Ferrari version of a Fiat? You don't see a Porsche badge on a VW."