Renault taps into F1 renown with sports car deal

Mon Nov 5, 2012 1:41pm EST
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By Laurence Frost

PARIS (Reuters) - Renault, hoping to harness its Formula One prowess to boost the flagging core brand, unveiled plans to develop a high-performance car in a deal with British specialist sports car maker Caterham.

The French automaker, which has flopped with recent attempts at larger or sportier models like the Laguna car, Vel Satis limousine and Wind roadster, also plans to revive its defunct Alpine brand for the new model, to go on sale by 2016.

The road-legal Alpine and an equivalent Caterham model will put racecar engineering within reach of more customers than rival Formula One-derived road offerings, Caterham Chairman Tony Fernandes and Renault Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said at a joint news conference.

"If you look at Formula One, there's only Ferrari and McLaren, which are extremely expensive," Fernandes said. "We'll produce a car that many more people can afford with F1 technology."

Renault sold its Formula One team in 2009-10 but continues to supply engines to Caterham Formula One, as well as the Williams, Lotus and Red Bull teams.

The companies declined to give details of pricing, sales targets or their financial transaction - which sees Caterham acquire a 50 percent stake in Automobiles Alpine Renault, a subsidiary of the French automaker.

"We're talking about several thousand vehicles a year," Ghosn said.

According to a French media report, the cars will be priced from 35,000-40,000 euros ($44,700-$51,100), a far cry from McLaren's £800,000 ($1.3 million) P1 supercar or the entry-level Ferrari California at 185,000 euros.   Continued...

Carlos Ghosn (L), Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and AirAsia Group CEO and Caterham Group Chairman Tony Fernandes shake hands over an Alpine sports car after a press conference in Boulogne-Billancourt, near Paris, November 5, 2012. REUTERS/Julien Muguet