Niche British carmaker Caterham has announced a joint venture with Renault to mass produce ‘affordable’ sportscars.
The pair plan a 50/50 investment to develop cars making use of Caterham’s F1 technology to put vehicles on the market in around four years time that sell for around R700 000.
Caterham Group president Tony Fernandes, reported to be worth £230m, said: “There is a gap in the market at lower price points that Ferrari and McLaren do not cater for. There are plenty of people who are fans of F1 who want to own a piece of the technology.”
Malaysian-born Fernandes will badge its share of the cars Caterham, which has its roots in the Lotus Seven first built by pioneering British engineer Colin Chapman in 1957. Its distinctive lightweight performance car, the Caterham Seven, was driven by Patrick McGoohan in the cult 1960s TV show The Prisoner, pictured.
Renualt will revive France’s famous Alpine marque, founded in 1955, which among its many accolades won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1973 and 1974 and Le Mans in 1978.
MADE IN FRANCE
The cars will be made at Renault’s Dieppe plant, securing work for around 400 employees. The pair say they will produce several thousand cars a year, but will not give more precise figures until nearer production.
The worldwide market for performance sports cars is around 700 000 cars a year. Currently Caterham produces around 500 cars a year. It will continue to build the Caterham Seven.
However, critics wonder how much of a British influence will remain in the new Caterhams given that the cars will be made abroad, under Bernard Ollivier, a life-long Renault executive, who will lead the joint venture.
Caterham Cars chief executive Graham Macdonald said: “We are effectively subcontracting the manufacture of the cars to Renualt. But engineers in the UK will design the cars.”
Fernandes, who also owns Queens Park Rangers FC, added: “It was a question of doing a deal with a major player that would give the brand global reach, or letting the Caterham brand die.”
However, the cars will share similar chassis and are likely to run on Renault engines.
Both cars will compete against each other in most parts of the world, but Fernandes will heavily promote its new Caterham in Asia, where he has a lot of experience.
Fernandes said: “I know how the Asian market works.
“That was one of the key things Renault wanted from us. This is the first business I have entered that is not strictly based around service. But I have gone into difficult businesses before and seen opportunities to make them work.”
Fernandes runs the successful AirAsia airline based in Malaysia, which he began in 2001 with two planes and last year carried a fleet of 119 planes and made a profit of £250m. -Daily Mail