Alpine boss steps down as revised brand plan takes shape

Renault's sports car brand Alpine may have had its future assured last year but it will no longer be run by the man it had announced would head it.

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William Stopford
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Cyril Abiteboul is stepping down from his post as head of Alpine.

The surprising departure comes after Renault committed to an expansion of its sports car brand and announced it was rebranding its Formula 1 team as Alpine.

Taking over from Abiteboul is Laurent Rossi, who will be the new head of the Alpine brand and all of its motorsport activity.

Rossi is currently Renault’s strategy and business development director.

Given Rossi doesn’t have any direct F1 experience, it’s possible someone could be appointed to take over as head of the Alpine F1 operation while Rossi manages the production car business.

Abiteboul had been in charge of Renault’s F1 team since 2014 and appointed head of Alpine last year by new Renault boss Luca de Meo, where he was given the target to break even within four years.

He had spent all of his professional life at Renault, joining the company fresh out of university in 2000.

“I would like to warmly thank Cyril for his tireless involvement, which notably led the Renault F1 Team from the penultimate place in 2016 to the podiums last season,” said de Meo in a statement.

“His remarkable work in F1 since 2007 allows us to look to the future, with a strong team and the new Alpine F1 Team identity to conquer the podiums this year.”

Abiteboul’s departure comes after Jerome Stoll, head of Renault Sport Racing since 2016, stepped down late last month.

As part of a new operating plan for Renault announced last year by de Meo, the Alpine name will descend to lower altitudes.

Renault will introduce hot versions of its cars with Alpine branding, similar to the relationship Seat and Cupra or Fiat and Abarth have.

Luca de Meo has first-hand experience with this, having left his role as head of Seat to become Renault’s CEO.

“As I did with Cupra, I will find a point of contact between the Alpine brand and some Renault models,” Mr de Meo said last year.

“We need to be credible on that, so I’m not going to do that with Kangoo or Espace – I’m going to do that with things that fit the positioning of the brand.”

Renault wants to heavily publicise the link between its Alpine-branded motorsport efforts and production cars.

The new Alpine-branded F1 team secured Fernando Alonso last year, while Alpine also confirmed it would enter a LMP1 car into the top category of the FIA World Endurance Championship during 2021.

Renault is introducing a new strategic plan later this week which we expect will shed more light on Alpine’s future.

Overseas reports have already indicated the brand is in line to receive three all-electric models, though it’s not yet known what shape these models will take and if the Alpine A110 sports car will receive battery power.

“The first thing I want to do is organise its life-cycle management, à la the Porsche 911, so we will have different versions. And maybe turn the car electric if we manage to solve the business case, maybe find a partner for it,” said de Meo.

The A110 range will grow, according to de Meo, and could also add a high-riding SportsX variant.

Alpine’s future looked dicey for a while with parent Renault posting a record €7.4 billion ($12.2 billion) loss during the first half of 2020. Renault has since committed to it and Dacia, though the future of Renault Samsung Motors and Lada aren’t yet assured.

MORE: Alpine news and reviews


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