The Caterham Group has taken major step in its development under Tony Fernandes by deepening its ties with Renault, its Formula 1 engine supplier, in a new partnership to design and build sports cars.
Caterham has bought a 50% stake in the Renault-owned Automobiles Alpine Renault, which was originally the historic French Alpine manufacturer which was a giant of the rallying world in the 1970s and whose Dieppe Plant in Normandy has been more recently used as the base for the production of Renault Sport models.
The new company will be known as The Société des Automobiles Alpine Caterham when it is launched in January.
The tie-up will see the two companies work together to build cars in both large and small series with the aim being for both Renault and Caterham Cars to each launch its own vehicle, the former’s under the revived Alpine name, within the next three to four years.
After his bid to align his then nascent Formula 1 team with a car manufacturer in Group Lotus ended in acrimony and court proceedings, Fernandes in April 2011 took the opportunity to buy the Caterham, and ultimately rebadge his F1 team under the name for this season, with the now Leafield-based F1 operation part of a wider ‘Group’ which includes Caterham Cars, Caterham Composites and Caterham Technology.
On purchasing Caterham last year Fernandes, whose business interests also include AirAsia and Queens Park Rangers football club, admitted he had seen the opportunity to create a low-cost sports car market with F1 links in Asia and speaking today about the Renualt partnership the Malaysian said: “I have not felt as excited about a new venture since I launched AirAsia in 2001 and I want to thank Carlos Ghosn and Carlos Tavares and everyone in our new Renault family for having the belief in Caterham Group to create this partnership.
“Many people doubted us 11 years ago when we launched our airline and I am sure that there will be doubters again this time, but we will not fail your trust. We know the markets we are going into and, particularly in my playground in Asia, there is a huge opportunity to replicate the AirAsia model and give consumers access to exciting, affordable products that marry our interests in F1 and technology and help make their dreams come true.”
Caterham’s F1 engine relationship with Renault, which started when Fernandes outfit were still known as Team Lotus in 2011, has clearly provided the platform from which to enter into the joint venture and Kamarudin Meranun, Caterham deputy chairman, says the partnership will allow them to develop the brand on a worldwide scale.
“Formula 1 was always our entry point into the car business. Our original plans to develop a partnership with Lotus were put aside in spectacular and well documented style, but now we have a far better chance to develop Caterham Cars in partnership with Renault, working with Caterham Technology who are also integrally involved in this new venture,” he said.
“Our F1 team has already been working successfully with Renault Sport F1 since the start of the 2011 F1 season and I am thrilled that now we are adding to our track partnership by joining forces with Renault on the road. Together with Renault we have now created an opportunity for Caterham Cars to grow into the next stage of its development from a very well respected niche brand into a serious player on the global motoring map.”
Renault chairman Carlos Ghosn added: “This innovative partnership with Caterham embodies a longstanding ambition: the creation of a sports car with the Alpine DNA. It carries both opportunities for the Dieppe plant and the development of its historic know-how.”
The two parties will create a joint Engineering Department to oversee the creation of the new sports cars and will be able to draw on support from Renault, Renault Sport Technologies and Caterham Technology and Innovation.