Q&A: Alpine’s boss on F1, Lotus, and electric SUVs… | Top Gear
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Advertisement feature
Shell V-Power: Fuelling your passions
Wednesday 7th June

Q&A: Alpine’s boss on F1, Lotus, and electric SUVs…

TG grilles Laurent Rossi to find out how Alpine’s going to kick on from the great (but niche) A110

Published: 11 Feb 2022

Laurent, thanks for your time. How’s your first year in the driving seat been at Alpine?

It’s exhilarating, it’s gone by like a flash. I’m pumped up and excited. There’s a lot of building [to do] from the inside. 

You’re from an engineering background: what’s it like being the business boss?

That’s why I decided to leave my job and get an MBA. I like nothing more than combining both. There’s nothing better than leaning on your core strengths from my engineering background and express myself in the business world. 

Advertisement - Page continues below

Are you happy with the A110? What’s next for that car?

We're bringing massive improvements, not on performance but on equipment and features. It’s not realistic [to do more] because the lifespan of this car is so short and the investment for the improvement we have the capability and skills to make... would not return a good return on investment. In fact it'd be a negative ROI. So instead we try to improve everything we can that brings value to the customer. 

Top Gear new Alpine 2022

The Legende GT sold out something like 300 cars in five weeks, and the new generation of A110 is getting rave customer reviews for its new screen and revised chassis. These things are less expensive than creating a convertible for instance. We thought we nailed the A110 when we released it, but we’re keeping on improving it.

On the sales side, I’m happy with the momentum. It’s going up, and it deserves a larger share of the market. Key markets are Germany and the UK. Sales doubled last year, from 100 to 200, Small figures, but important in the sports car category. We’re aiming to double again this year. We’re going to grow from nine [showroom dealers] in the UK to 16 by the end of 2022. 

Advertisement - Page continues below

Have you seen journalists are likening the new £190,000 Maserati MC20 to a ‘600bhp Alpine A110?’

No I hadn’t, but thank you! I did see a story that described Porsche’s new electric Macan as ‘a rival for the Alpine GT X-Over EV’ – I thought ‘that’s interesting…’

Top Gear new Alpine 2022

How’s the response been to your upcoming electric crossover? For a young brand specialising in lightweight sports cars that’s a tricky thing to PR…

[Customers] have responded very well because they understand that this is going to expand the playing field for us. The A110 was a rather exclusive car – a two seater, not much luggage space – you need a certain profile of people to buy such a car, it’s not for everyone. So we’ll expand the range because a five-seater, more of an SUV will certainly cater to more people’s everyday needs. 

Yes, it’s going to be heavy because it’s electric, but we’re going to embed a lot of state of the art technology starting with active torque vectoring – trust me I’ve driven the new car. Without the system on, it behaves like any EV car out there today. Turn the car too sharply and you wonder if it’ll tip upside down. With the ATV on, it just corners flat. It’s impressive, the car behaves like it weighs 1,000kg less. 

To make Alpines, whichever category we’re looking at, they need to be agile, nifty cars. Don’t worry, this car will be an Alpine. 

Tell us about your partnership with Lotus. Is the revised A110 a response to the Emira?

Lotus and us quickly realised we share the same constraints and opportunities. We need to tackle a world where cars going to be electrified and therefore heavier. As Colin Chapman said, if you want speed, add lightness. Alpine has the same principle. Technologically speaking you can counter the weight, and with electricity you have the advantage of instant torque. We’ve sat down to look at the problem together. 

Together we have the volume to make the investment worthwhile, and yet not cannibalise each other. We have a slightly different price point, different customer needs, and we’re comfortable with the fact our volumes are not going to be taken off each other. 

There’s no chance of the Alpine SportsX ‘safari’ concept making it to production... is there?

[Laughs] That was just a fantasy – all it does it add weight to the car! But thanks to future collaboration with Lotus we will be able to create more variants and different versions of cars in the future. But before the end of the A110’s life, we will not be short of surprises…

Top Gear

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

Could you share the Evija platform with Lotus, and create an Alpine electric hypercar – like the shared Rimac Nevera / Pininfarina Battista?

For now no, because it’s far outside our realm of customer.  But I’m not closing the door to further collaborations with Lotus. Under the big tree of Geely-Renault collaboration there are some good opportunities further down the road to be sized, not just for Alpine. It’s a bit early for us to dream of a hypercar, but I never exclude that possibility. 

The Alpine version of the Renault 5 EV: is your philosophy to focus on shedding weight, power and speed, or handling?

It has to drive like an Alpine. As much power as possibly to reach an optimum power to weight ratio. We’re limited by the weight of the car and possibly the motors and batteries we can fit – it’s a mixed bag. But I can tell you the performance is above the competition in many ways on paper. 

Alpine 2022 Top Gear

To finish, let’s talk F1. Rebranding Renault and Alpine F1 was great timing as F1 gained huge coverage last year. How will you leverage that and link your little sports cars and F1’s fastest cars on the planet?

F1 was getting a lot of momentum after 2020 when everyone was stuck at home, it was one of the few sports which could carry on. And they ‘completed’ Netflix by watching things they normally wouldn’t, like Drive To Survive. We saw the popularity surge coming.

At the same time we needed attention for Alpine. We were wondering if Renault should continue in F1 as Renault had been investing in F1 for so long and was not getting ‘bang for its buck.’ It was getting a long way from the type of products they sell. 

Formula One gives us a media platform that makes people curious – we got twice the number of online configurations and sales. So we attract people, but we need to convert them with good products. We have those, and more are coming. But we also need a narrative. 

So what’s the link between a hybrid 1,000bhp F1 racer and 250bhp sports car?

F1, like any other motorsport, is sharing the pain of the entire car industry of electrification. We need to go to something cleaner, there’s no doubt. An EV seems to be the only way at the moment. People ask all the time ‘what’s the link with Alpine and F1?’. Well in F1, combustion engines are the most efficient possible, and the crux of the sport is to optimise the battery and electric energy. This is the same for road cars, so what we learn in one we apply for the other. How to re-gen electricity, how to charge, how to generate performance. 

The same problems that affect a car lasting an F1 race are what you face when trying to drive an EV from London to Manchester – range. Also you could say even ten years ago a Renault Megane RS did not have much in common with an F1 car, but at least now there is synergy with the powertrains. 

Other ways to improve performance are lighter weight materials and aerodynamics. And we’re using the same stuff in our Alpines. A good example on the GT X-Over is we’re using the F1 aerodynamicists from Enstone to improve the range to add aerodynamic features designed by the team. This will allow us exceed 500km of range by quite a mark.

We may even use data from our road cars to improve the next MGU-K in the Alpine F1…

More from Top Gear

See more on Alpine

Promoted Content

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

Get your first 5 issues for £5