AIRASIA supremo Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and his partner Datuk Kamarudin Meranun have surprised the world by entering into a joint venture (JV) with French carmaker Renault SA, via the Caterham Group.
Both companies have agreed to join forces to design, develop and build affordable sports cars, which will be built at the Alpine plant in Dieppe, Normandy, France.
The cars, CT02 and the new Alpine, are set to be launched in the Asia and Europe markets by 2015.
Fernandes said the Malaysian version of the CT02 will be a completely knocked down (CKD) with local parts, to ensure a lower tax.
He also said it has always been his intention to build affordable sports cars, and partnering with Renault is a great step for both companies to offer the vehicles to the market.
"When Kamarudin and I went into Formula 1, it wasn't just about racing cars. We felt there was a huge opportunity for people, especially Asians, to benefit from having affordable cars."
"We know the markets we are going into and, particularly in my playground in Asia, there is a huge opportunity to replicate the AirAsia model and give consumers access to exciting and affordable products," he told reporters at the announcement of the JV here yesterday.
Fernandes said the idea to build affordable sports cars was mooted one and a half years ago, adding that it is sensible for Caterham to partner with Renault, which has the technology and expertise, rather than reinvent the technology and parts on its own.
He said the cars are targeted at growing affluent Southeast Asians, particularly in Bangkok, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.
However, he was tight lipped on the investment figures as well as the details and pricing of the new cars.
"Today is too early to talk about the volume and pricing of the cars, but of course the announcement will be made soon," he said.
The 50:50 partnership between Caterham and Renault will give birth to the Societe des Automobiles Alpine Caterham, which will be created in January 2013.
The new company will be run by former Renaultsport boss Bernard Ollivier.
"The road map for each car is clear and simple - respect the DNA of both Alpine and Caterham Cars.
With the passion and expertise of the staff dedicated to this project, we are sure of meeting this aim," said Ollivier.