It was distressing to hear that Renault’s Dieppe plant, home to sportscar sub-brand Alpine, will likely be closed as the french Automaker attempts to right itself after the impact of the pandemic on business. We thought that closure would once again be the end of Alpine, but apparently there’s still hope.
According to a report from Autocar, Alpine may actually survive the tumult despite some initial reports to the contrary, but when it emerges it could be looking at an all-electric future. It’s not totally set in stone yet, though. Autocar explains that the brand’s fate will only be decided once new Renault CEO Luca di Meo begins his tenure in July. Total electrification will certainly a price to pay for a sports car brand that has long traded on simplicity and low curb weight, but I think it’ll be worth it.
The car that Alpine currently builds in Dieppe is the A110. Inspired by the iconic A110 of the ‘60s, the current car is a lightweight mid-engined beauty that more than makes up for the decades that the brand sat dormant, tended to only by Renault’s trademark lawyers. With a 1.8-liter four-cylinder mounted midship (instead of out back like the Alpines of old), the A110 is really good.
Ken Saito got to drive the current Alpine A110 for us last year in Japan, setting all of us off in envy because we’ve all wanted to drive one. Patrick wanted to drive the Alpine. Kristen wanted to drive one too. Justin did. Raph too. There aren’t many of us who haven’t expressed challenging degrees of want when it comes to this car. Unfortunately, it does seem that whatever the outcome, an Alpine that survives won’t feature a car similar to the A110 as we know it right now.
But even if everything stayed the same, Alpine needs to sell more cars than it currently does. The benchmark goal of 6000 units per year that Renault set for the brand three years ago has been impossible to reach thus far with fewer than 4500 units moved last year. Granted, when your car can’t be sold in America, you’re bound to miss out on some demand, but that forecast was supposed to account for market restrictions and Alpine clearly couldn’t meet the mark.
While the A110 is great, it does have some stiff competition. Being matched most closely with the Porsche Cayman isn’t going to be easy, and then there are all the rest of the “fun car” options available at the same price point. Having been dormant for decades before the A110 launched didn’t help either, I bet.
But an electric future isn’t a death knell by any means. With its Z.E. line of electric models, the Twizy city car and, its deep cooperation with the Better Place project, Renault has proven that the company is serious about making electric cars work, even if unorthodox approaches might be necessary to get there. On the other side of things, it’s clear that electric sports cars can work too. Between Tesla’s Ludicrous Mode, Volkswagen’s i.D. R racecar, and plenty of other examples, the prospects for electric sports cars are really good. I think Renault and Alpine can pull it off. We’ll just have to wait and see.