VS’is a very old acquaintance of almost 60 years, 1966 exactly, date on which Renault took a part of the small manufacturer of Dieppe whose reputation was going to largely exceed the volume of production. The aura of Alpine is a nugget that has been regularly tarnished by the management of the diamond, not very sensitive to what a sports car is, even to an elite model, so long has the country’s social policy registered in Billancourt.
It is still a bit at the Elysée and Bercy and Renault can no doubt say thank you to the policies which have prevented, in the name of preserving employment more than the culture of the brand, the devastation of Alpine. The visit yesterday of Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy, to Dieppe for major announcements refers to the muscular interventionism of Bercy. Without him, Alpine would no longer exist today.
Renault must humbly remember this before displaying any triumphalism at the announcement of an ambitious program for Alpine. The rebirth of the iconic berlinetta is already almost fortuitous as it was little supported by the staff of the diamond, under the thumb of the management controllers. Except by a certain Carlos Tavares, who has since moved to PSA and now heads Stellantis.
The car lives up to founder Jean Rédélé’s credo by exploiting the power-to-weight ratio like no other car in the world. In any case since the disappearance of the Alfa Romeo 4C and the Caterham. A feat admired all over the world for a car that has been dissected by several competing design offices, and not the least. The approach is so original that it goes against the generalized swelling of automobile construction, of which electric cars, veritable rolling anvils, are the worst representatives.
How will Alpine fare when it in turn announces an electric SUV that it will build in Dieppe from 2025? This small electric SUV is the first link in a real range designed as part of an industrial reinvestment underlined Friday by the Minister of the Economy as a “promise kept”.
The Renault group has made Alpine its sporting showcase, notably in Formula 1 with the French driver Esteban Ocon. With the new technical regulations, she is playing big in 2022 where she will field the single-seater on which she has been working for two years. The challenge is considerable: it must bring new notoriety to the brand, known only to enthusiasts outside France. For its part Renault, whose sales have fallen sharply in recent months, wants to accelerate its electrification and position itself in the upper segments of the car market, which are not experiencing the crisis.
“We are going to make a more upscale electric car, which will arrive here in early 2025,” said Renault CEO Luca de Meo, visiting the small factory in Dieppe (Seine-Maritime). “It’s a mix between a mini-Ferrari and a mini-Tesla: we’re going to make very emotional electric cars,” said Luca de Meo, who had participated in his previous lives at Fiat and Volkswagen in the revival of other brands. sports cars, Abarths and Lamborghinis.
The French battery of the SUV and its engines produced in Cléon (Seine-Maritime), one hour away by truck, should allow it to achieve 0 to 100 kilometers / hour in 4 seconds. A real sports car in a straight line, like all electric cars, but for how long and with what behavior in the alpine passes?
Alongside Mr. De Meo walked “delighted” the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, who had already come to the Dieppe factory in 2017, when it was threatened. After “muscular” discussions with Renault, in which the State is a shareholder, the “Norman and car enthusiast” minister, “converted to electric”, welcomed this promise of reindustrialization, one of the priorities of the mandate Emmanuel Macron, and his upcoming campaign.
“It’s an industrial symbol (…) The high-end car industry is not reserved for Germans”, launched Bruno Le Maire while visiting the production line of “berlinettas”.
The presidential election must be an opportunity to open a debate on new measures to continue to develop industrial employment, he noted, proposing to “go further in lowering production taxes”, or to lower the employer’s contributions “above 2.5 Smic”.
The bet of the light battery
The brand with the arrowed “A” had completely fallen into the hands of Renault in 1973, but had been put on hold in 1995. In the meantime, it produced favorite vehicles in Dieppe such as the first A110 of the name, champion of world of rallies in the early 1970s. The revival of Alpine was formalized in 2017 with the presentation of the new A110. This light car has only been produced since some 10,000 units, sold from 60,000 euros, with a Nissan engine delivered from South Korea. A few copies now equip the French gendarmerie.
In addition to the new SUV, the tricolor brand must launch by 2026 a sporty and electric compact, which could evoke a kind of modern R5 turbo. The current A110 will see its replacement arrive, whose electric chassis will be co-developed with English Lotus, which will also use it for its benefit. The technical node revolves around the battery and Alpine can hope to reap the fruits of Nissan’s research on a solid, smaller and enduring battery with equivalent energy output.
In this way, Alpine could maintain the idea of the right weight-power ratio which is dear to it but which will be in tow of the current, incomparable thermal versions. With this ambitious range, and its costly motorsport commitments, Alpine aims to become profitable in 2025.
The factory, one of the smallest industrial units in the Renault galaxy, employs some 400 people and produces 15 cars a day. The volumes of the SUV could “multiply production by 10 or 20” in Dieppe, estimated Luca de Meo.
“The word given by Luca de Meo and the minister has been kept,” welcomed MP Sébastien Jumel (PCF) in the factory. “All this is possible thanks to the know-how of the employees.”