ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Aviation to Automobiles: Tony Fernandes plans to produce sports vehicle
The first car will roll out from the production line in 2015.
Fernandes' Caterham Group and Renault ASA unit, Automobiles Alpine Renault company, signed a deal in Paris yesterday in which both parties would have equal 50:50 equity stake in a new joint venture known as The Socit des Automobiles Alpine, to design, develop and build future sports vehicles.
“Asia will be a big part of this investment and there will be two manufacturing hubs, one each in Europe (Dieppe Plant in Normandy in France) and Asia (in Malaysia). We will work with a factory (Naza Motors plant) in Malaysia and use the Malaysian auto (support) chain,'' he told StarBiz from Paris yesterday.
“We will create jobs in Malaysia and the investment will be happening as early as next year.”
From airlines, Formula 1 to football, Fernandes never fails to amaze and this time he has got a reputable player, Renault, whose Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Carlos Ghosn, is very well known and respected in the global auto industry.
Fernandes said the venture into Formula 1 years ago by Caterham was not just about going for the races but also about making cars. In fact, making cars is also his “dream'' and he expected to realise that by 2015.
A report said the first car, the CT02, was expected to roll out of the production plant in 2015 and Fernandes said the Malaysian version would be a completely knocked down (CKD) with local parts to ensure a lower tax.
Renault and Caterham already have a business partnership as the French carmaker provides engines for the Caterham F1 team.
He declined to say how much investment was required but did say that “today we are becoming a car manufacturer and F1 has been a useful marketing platform; and we now have a great platform to make cars.''
As to teaming up with Renault, he said: “What a fantastic partner we have for a small company from Malaysia and we are very excited that an icon like Renault believes in us as many people had tried to partner Renault. I and Kamarudin (Meranun) are excited about this new venture.''
Ghosn said in a statement that “this innovative partnership with Caterham embodies a longstanding ambition: the creation of a sports car with the Alpine DNA. It carries both opportunities for the Dieppe plant and the development of its historic knowhow.''
Fernandes added in a press release that “I have not felt as excited about a new venture since I launched AirAsia in 2001. Many people doubted us 11 years ago when we launched our airline and I am sure that there will be doubters again this time, but we will not fail your trust.
“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, affordable products that marry our interests in F1 and technology and help make their dreams come true.''
The statement added that “the future vehicles will be distinctive, differentiated, and carry the respective DNA of Alpine and Caterham Cars, the automotive division of Caterham Group.''
The Alpine plant in Dieppe is currently dedicated to building the vehicles developed by Renault Sport Technologies, both production (Clio R.S.) and racing models.
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