Renault's performance-rooted Alpine division linked arms with Caterham to develop the current-generation A110, but it brought the project in-house after the partnership collapsed. It's again looking across the English Channel to design the model's replacement. It teamed up with Lotus to examine ways to create a nimble electric sports car.
Both companies issued a statement to cautiously explain the project remains at the embryonic stage. Development work hasn't started yet. Executives simply agreed to conduct a comprehensive feasibility study for the joint engineering, design, and development of a battery-powered model. On the French side, the car (assuming it's approved) will replace the A110. In the United Kingdom, it's unclear whether the Lotus-badged variant will take the torch from an existing model (like the Elise), or if it will be positioned as a standalone car.
While it sounds like nothing is set in stone yet, the match makes sense. Alpine and Lotus are both niche players in the automotive industry, though they're part of much larger groups (Geely owns Lotus). And they both made a name for themselves by building light sports cars. Neither has ever offered a rival to the Lamborghini Aventador, for example. Working together will allow them to find a common solution to the problem of offsetting the mass of an electric powertrain.
Overlapping is certainly possible, but Alpine and Lotus can stay in opposite corners of the same room if they put their respective DNAs front and center. Their jointly-developed electric sports car will need to be small, nimble, and quick. From there, Lotus could shape its version as a convertible (or at least with removable roof panels) while Alpine could turn its model into a coupe, the body style it's most closely associated with. Design will be a major differentiating factor, too. Lotus previously hinted its future cars will borrow styling cues from the Evija. We don't know exactly where Alpine is headed, but nothing suggests its future cars will also look like the Evija.
Alpine's reshuffling won't end there. Renault announced that the firm will gain responsibility for Renault Sport and Renault Sport Racing in the coming years, and that it will become 100% electric. It will introduce at least three new models during the first half of the 2020s: a car that looks like a city-friendly hatchback, its first crossover, inevitably, and the aforementioned A110 replacement. All three were previewed in a dark image (shown above) released during a presentation. They're described as "for me," "for us," and "for the weekend," respectively.
We wouldn't be surprised if the hatchback labeled "for me" arrives as a sportier evolution of the Renault 5 Prototype. The heritage is certainly there: Renault sold the 5 Alpine hot hatch from 1976 to 1984. Regardless, it's a surprising change of pace for a company that stressed it cared more about heritage than volume until recently. Whether the new direction will lead Alpine to America, a market it has never been in, remains to be seen.
Moving beyond the realm of electric cars, Alpine and Lotus are also looking at pooling their engineering expertise to develop cars (or parts of cars) for other manufacturers. They could merge their motorsport efforts, too.
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