Renault might be on the edge of relaunching the Alpine brand with a brand new mid-engined sports car, but the feedback from the Le Mans and Goodwood crowds can re-shape the final product significantly. It’s time to get loud so they can hear you.
Autocar did a Q&A with Alpine boss Bernard Olliver at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and he had many interesting things to say which I think worth dissecting a little here, starting with this:
You have seen the Alpine Celebration at Le Mans. If I change the logo and I put Renaultsport, or Porsche, or Lotus, is there a difference of assessment by people? If they are interested. It is very important for us. What kind of people? Perhaps if I put Porsche it’s not the same customer than if it is Alpine or Renault Sport. So it’s quite a survey.
For sure. While Alpine might have the right heritage and shade of blue, the Renaultsport brand is what people associate with relatively affordable performance cars nowadays, at least in Europe. There’s a market there, and Alpine could build on that by offering something slightly more luxurious while Renaultsport keeps giving us the most hardcore hatchback money can buy.
As far as Lotus goes, no matter how much Caterham know-how went into this new car, I still don’t feel Alpine’s future customers will be looking for something as track-focused as the next Elise/Exige should be.
Meanwhile, Porsche buyers would never go for a French car over a Cayman, even if it ends up being slightly cheaper. The reason why people buy Alfa Romeo 4Cs is not that it’s better than a Cayman, but that it isn’t a Porsche. That’s Alpine’s ticket as well.
Of course Olliver knows that:
My challenge is the market has not waited for us. All the places are taken by carmakers and so we have to take our place. For that we need to be very strong on our uniqueness. If we copy Lotus, or Porsche, why will we succeed?
It’s possible we will succeed because our car will be different. An Alpine has to be different to a Lotus.
The design of the car is very, very important. Probably 80% of the decision to buy a car is down to the design. So it’s very, very crucial.
But after that, there are other points, the positioning of the car, performance, comfort and of course all the economic topics with the profitability.
We would prefer to be sure than to be quick. But also this is not only about France. France is quite a small market. Of course, I think about Germany, the UK, Japan etc.
How about America, ladies and gentlemen? While the French have avoided the U.S. in recent decades, launching the Alpine oversees isn’t as crazy as it sounds. It all comes down to the dealerships and the Renault–Nissan Alliance. Sold alongside Nismos, perhaps?
The customers for Alpine cars won’t be the same as for Renault. For instance, even the customer for RenaultSport is probably young, not very rich, and he is buying a car which is useable for all the things he has to do.
For Alpine, it’s not that. It is very passionate people, quite rich, probably it’s the third or fourth car for them. It’s a car only for pleasure for the weekend, not to drive a lot, only for pleasure. Is this customer going to go to a Renault dealer to buy an Alpine? I’m not sure, because you want to get a very, very dedicated service.
Indeed. And although I’m not sure how well a “lightweight, simple, fluid, and very uncomplicated” design can work at such a premium level, dedicated Alpine dealers at Nissan’s could finally open up North America for Renault.
I am confident we will be able to find the good solution. But today we have not finished solving the remaining issues. For instance, the profitability hot topic. If the profitability is low it means we are not sure on the long-term future. It is very important for me and for the Renault Group to build something for the long-term.
We will modify this concept using feedback from Le Mans and Goodwood. We will look for a good balance. I’m not sure this is for next year – the timing is dependent on our ability to make the right car.
There you have it. That rumored 2016 launch date can easily be pushed back to 2017 because they simply cannot fail again, so everything comes down to market research and the potential customer’s feedback at the Goodwood Festival of Speed next week, as well as from other events later on.
Either way, Jalopnik will be at Goodwood, so just tell us below what you think the first Alpine in 20 years should really be like. I’ll try to poke the French for you.
Source: John McIlroy via Autocar. Photo credit: Renault
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