Renault’s decision to rebrand the multi-million-dollar marketing machine that is its Formula One team after a company selling less than 1000 cars in Europe per year is starting to come into focus.
Renault CEO Luca de Meo has revealed in a series of recent interviews more details about what he has planned for the tiny Alpine brand that justifies his decision to take the brand into both F1 and Le Mans sports-car racing in 2021.
He told Automotive News Europe that he wants to expand Alpine beyond the current A110 sports car and have it produce premium, sporty versions of several Renault models – possibly at the expense of the Renault Sport branding.
Renault Sport has become world renowned for its hot hatches, and the Clio RS and Megane RS have long had loyal followings in the Australian market.
Alpine, on the other hand, is struggling for traction, selling less than 900 cars in Europe in 2020 and only four so far in Australia this year. Which is why Mr de Meo wants to expand its line-up with a range of Renault-based specials, similar to what Peugeot offers with its GT Line models, eventually expanding to one million sales.
“My experience is that equipment levels that have a more dynamic, sporty look are more popular in the market, such as PSA’s GT Line,” Mr de Meo told Automotive News Europe.
“So, I think we need to go in that direction. An ‘Alpine Line’ could be a way for us to ensure that we have 25, 30 per cent of the mix on the higher equipment levels, where you make money.”
But that’s only part of Mr de Meo’s vision. He’s made it clear that while he knows it’s still very early days for Alpine’s second coming, the high-quality nature of its work at the Dieppe factory (formerly home to RS production) in producing the A110 puts it in elite company in European manufacturing.
He even said during one interview it has the potential to be a “mini Ferrari” with its combination of low-volume production and motor racing.
Mr de Meo also said he sees potential for Alpine to grow and become Renault’s new performance division and take on the biggest names in the business.
“It’s very flexible, very capable of doing craftsmanship and work similar to the M division at BMW or Neckarsulm at Audi or AMG,” he said.
There have also been rumours that Alpine could introduce electric sports cars, but Mr de Meo has made no definitive comment on that.