Renault and Caterham combine to build Alpine, form slightly familiar acronym – SAAC

Earlier this year, I wrote how Renault/Nissan boss and part-time Napoleon impersonator Carlos Ghosn was my nomination for the Automotive Executive of the Year for 2012*. It was January, actually. I called it early, when Ghosn ruled out bringing Renault to the US.

Since then, we’ve had Nissan unveil their entrant into Australia’s V8 Supercar racing series, a move that’s going to make the series more interesting than it’s been in ages. For a couple of decades now, the series has been fought between just Holden and Ford. Next year, Nissan and a team running some AMG Mercedes Benzes are set to liven things up. A small decision, but a good one.

Today we have another decision from Renault, one that only confirms my thinking. This isn’t a decision that’s going to boost Renault’s business revenue by any large degree. It’s more of a decision of character.

You already know that I’ve got a massive crush on the RenaultSport range of vehicles. Well, I have a feeling my French connection is about to get that little bit stronger:

Renault and Caterham Group today announced their decision to join forces in pursuit of a common project: to design develop and build future sports vehicles. This agreement reflects a similar passion and expertise in sports and motorsports vehicles.

The future vehicles will be distinctive, differentiated, and carry the respective DNA of Alpine and Caterham Cars, the automotive division of Caterham Group. They will be built at the Alpine plant in Dieppe, Normandy, in France.

The Caterham Group will own 50% stake in the Automobiles Alpine Renault company, currently 100 % held by Renault SAS. The Société des Automobiles Alpine Caterham, which will be resulting from this partnership, shall be created in January 2013. It will be managed by Bernard Ollivier

This project, which ensures the Dieppe Plant a sustainable future, was made possible thanks to the incentive and to the substantial support and commitment provided by the French State and the Région Haute Normandie which also involved the contribution of Dieppe Maritime.

Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of Renault:

“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.”

Sing to me, Carlos.

Société des Automobiles Alpine Caterham. That’s SAAC for short, but I think we’ll just end up calling them Alpine. You can read a heck of a lot more about this exciting news at the press release.

This partnership in road vehicles will bring some serious motorsport cred along with it. Renault supply multiple F1 teams with engines, one of which is the Caterham team. Of course, Caterham already has plenty of sportscar cred with their range of lightweight roadsters. And then there’s the high esteem already held by RenaultSport for their chassis engineering, which won’t be mentioned specifically here, but only adds to the house that Alpine plans to build.

These won’t be cars for the everyday punter, but they’re going to bring some exciting and more ‘affordable’ competition to the upper end of the sports car market.

Kudos to them, and kudos to Carlos for signing off on it.

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* As it turns out, I was right back in January. In October 2012, Ghosn was actually named in the Eurostars awards given out by Automotive News Europe. He was credited for the Renault/Nissan’s visionary expansion into high-growth markets at a time when the European market was going quite poorly.

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