Renault is one of the world’s largest automotive brands — through its alliance with Nissan and Mitsubishi. But the French automaker itself has long been absent from the American market, a gap it hopes to fill before the end of the decade.
The carmaker hopes to bring a pair of electric crossovers to the U.S. market by 2027 or 2028 — though they would wear the Alpine badge, a niche sports car brand Renault hopes to grow into a worldwide player.
“The U.S. is the main destination for these cars,” Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday.
Following the trend
Like most European brands, including parent Renault, Alpine is migrating to all-electric technology. The transition will begin with a replacement for the Renault 5, a small electric crossover which will have its performance upped substantially, in line with Alpine’s mission as the sporty brand in the Renault family.
It will be followed by a sporty compact crossover, Automotive News reported, dubbed the Alpine GT. Third on the list is a sporty version of an electric crossover succeeding the current A110 sports coupe. Larger than the Alpine 5, it is being developed as part of a joint venture with Britain’s Lotus Cars, now a subsidiary of China’s Geely Group.
Those products are seen as too small for the U.S. market, however, so Alpine’s move across the Atlantic will have to wait for the arrival of two still-larger crossovers.
They’ll be targeting two products from a brand more familiar to American buyers: the Porsche Macan and Cayenne, according to Rossi.
Specific plans for those Alpine models have not been worked out and the company has a variety of options, Rossi indicated Wednesday. It could come up with variants of Renault models. Or it might leverage its relationship with Geely which builds cars not only under that brand name but also the Volvo, Polestar and Zeekr marques. All are moving to electric-only product lines.
A new partner
But some reports from Europe suggest Alpine is turning to the aforementioned Lotus. The two EVs could share the same underlying platform as the British marque’s new Eletre. That battery-electric vehicle will go on sale in Europe this year and is expected to come to the States for the 2024 model year at a price of around $85,000.
Coming to the States would be a big move for Alpine, a brand that was launched as a tuner of Renault products back in the 1950s. It laid dormant for two decades until former Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn brought it back to market in 2017. It currently offers just one model, the A110, which generated a total of 3,546 sales last year. But momentum moved in the right direction, year-over-year demand rising by 33%.
That said, Alpine CEO Rossi’s aspirations for the future are substantial, with the first of the two EVs in the pipeline expected to boost sales to 35,000 by 2025. Coming to the U.S. would take things up another notch, he anticipates.
Coming to America
“We want to go to the U.S., which will create the bulk of the extra volume above and beyond the hot hatch and sporty car we are launching in 2025, and the successor to the A110,” he told reporters.
Reentering the big American market would be a big move for Renault, whichever brand it uses. But whether it can succeed is far from certain.
The automaker had a small but steady presence in the U.S. post-World War II, but as demand started to dwindle it pulled out of the U.S. 30 years ago — along with a handful of other European brands, including French rival Peugeot and Fiat. (Renault also abandoned its stake in the old American Motors Corp. in 1987, selling AMC to what was then the Chrysler Corp.)
Renault has dropped hints about a U.S. revival in the three decades since, but has failed to follow through, relying on its original alliance partner Nissan to carve out a place in North America.
It isn’t the only one of those manufacturers regretting the decision to leave the States. Peugeot laid out a long-term revival plan in 2014. It was to start with the creation of a ride-sharing service and, over the course of nearly a decade, ultimately see the Peugeot brand itself return. Though the ride-sharing operation did open in several locations, Peugeot’s American return was scrubbed after parent PSA Group merged with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to form Stellantis.
Fiat, for its part, did make its return a decade ago, following the creation of FCA. But it has fallen far short of sales expectations and abandoned all but one of its product lines in the States for now. Sibling Italian brand Alfa Romeo also staked out a space in the U.S. under FCA but, despite being targeted to become one of the Euro-American automaker’s big brands, it continues to lag behind its targets.
Whether Renault’s Alpine can succeed where these brands have struggled is far from certain, but it’s certain that Rossi and his team will be looking for ways to give the sporty Alpine more momentum out of the box if and when it does make the Atlantic crossing.