Renault A110-50 Alpine.
Renault will revive the Alpine upscale brand as it seeks to reduce its reliance on Europe’s plunging volume car business.
The 113-year-old automaker will form a joint venture with UK-based Caterham Group to manufacture sports cars, bringing the first vehicle to market in three to four years, the French automaker said.
‘‘This innovative partnership with Caterham embodies a longstanding ambition: the creation of a sports car with the Alpine DNA,’’ Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn said.
Renault, Fiat SpA and PSA Peugeot Citroen, the European volume carmakers hardest hit by the region’s plunging auto market, are trying to develop high-end offerings in an attempt to mirror the Volkswagen Group’s success with Audi and other luxuxry brands, which bring in about half of the entire group’s profit.
European car sales are on track to drop the most in 19 years in 2012, the ACEA industry group forecasts.The premium automakers are fairing better than their volume counterparts because their customers are less price sensitive to economic downturns.
Sales at BMW are down 1.8 per cent in Europe through September and Mercedes-Benz is 2.4 per cent lower. Audi has increased deliveries 4.8 per cent in the region. Renault has slumped 18 per cent, Peugeot 13 per cent and Fiat 17 per cent.
Renault’s new line boost the number of brands at Renault to three, with the Romania-based Dacia selling no-frills vehicles. VW, which is Europe’s biggest automaker, this year took full ownership of sports-car maker Porsche, making it the group’s 12th brand alongside Bentley and Lamborghini.
Renault Chief Operating Officer Carlos Tavares said in a June interview that the French company was keen to emulate VW’s success with Audi, an assessment shared by other automotive executives.
Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said last week he would introduce nine new Alfa Romeo vehicles and six Maserati models in the next four years to boost the brands’ contribution to the carmaker’s earnings.
Peugeot announced plans last year to expand its DS line of upscale Citroen cars.
Building up luxury brands can be an expensive and prolonged task. VW in the last decade has poured billions into Audi’s research and development alone.
Audi now sells 12 model lines, twice what it had in 2003, including three sport-utility vehicles, the A1 compact and the R8 sports car. Audi’s deliveries in the past 10 years have doubled.
Alpine was founded in the 1950s and became well-known among sports-car enthusiasts for the A110 and Berlinette, which was introduced in 1962. Alpine signed a partnership with Renault in the mid-1960s and its cars were distributed through Renault dealers. Renault bought a majority of Alpine in the early 1970s. The carmaker stopped making Alpine models in 1995.
Tavares said in June that the automaker is also considering developing the Initiale Paris label, which is currently used on special edition versions of existing Renault models, into a standalone premium brand.
Renault and Caterham will both bring vehicles to market under the Alpine brand, they said in today’s statement.‘‘We believe we can build an affordable car that people want,’’ Caterham Group President Tony Fernandes said at today’s press conference.
‘‘We’ll produce a car that many more people will be able to afford with F1 technology.’’Renault could share development costs for the models with partners Nissan, which has the Infiniti premium unit, and Daimler, which is the world’s third-biggest luxury carmaker. The French company has had alliances with Nissan since 1999 and Daimler since 2010.