Interview with Axel Breun: “100% electric Alpine cars? It makes sense!”

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Axel Breun, a Renault designer, has participated in numerous projects for the rebirth of the Berlinette Alpine (projects W71 – below a model by Guy Greffier -, Z11 or W19) and was notably responsible for the design of the Renault-Sport cell and the Renault concept cars. Suffice to say that his point of view on the “Renaulution” plan, from which Alpine has grown, is sharp and instructive!

An Alpine range, moreover 100% electric and with a crossover, it’s surprising?
Axel Breun: “No, on the contrary, it seems quite logical to me. Remember the Captur concept car of 2011 (below). At the time (Axel Breun was head of design for Renault concept cars) I had the idea of managing this small SUV like a sports car. Before him, there had been the project of a Renaut-Sport 2+2 SUV. So we could have imagined the Captur as a small Alpine crossover! This scenario has always existed in my head. It was already clear at the time that an Alpine revival couldn’t be achieved by the A110 alone.”

However, the Captur concept car has not been awarded the Alpine badge!
A.B.: “Let’s just say that there was an ulterior motive for this project! After its revelation, I had made a presentation on Renault’s strategy and among the slides, there was this proposal to use the Captur concept car, very different from the version industrialised by Renault, for a small Alpine crossover. I thought there might be a second chance for this concept car (below), but it didn’t go very far, just a slide or two in my presentation…”

For a designer, a 100% electric platform is less constraining?
A.B.: “Yes, we are already seeing electric car projects that have gained in proportions, with short overhangs and long wheelbases. We’ve gained more freedom, it’s clear.”

But will a 100% electric A110 remain a Berlinette?
A.B.: “Yes, of course, despite the weight constraints to be managed. Remember the 2010 DeZir concept car (above) which was electric, already! An Alpine can be sexy, even in 100% electric. We had even thought about this drive train for the A110-50 concept (below) but in the end we made it on a Mégane Trophy basis.”

This future A110 will be designed in partnership with Lotus, like the aborted Berlinette Z11 project of 2001 on which you worked.
A.B.: “Yes, we had collaborated with Lotus for the Z11 project (below). This collaboration is promising. There are great engineers at Lotus and they have succeeded in designing a range of fabulous cars. And even a 100% electric sports car. You have to understand that it’s very difficult to design sports cars and make money with them, so sharing the development costs is quite logical.”

In the Renault group’s new organisation, Alpine has become a brand in its own right, including Renault-Sport. Is this a good strategy for you?
A.B.: “Yes, 100% yes! I had this strategy in mind some fifteen years ago. I had rubbed shoulders with Renault-Sport because of course this kind of internal debate was not well seen, because it was the announced death of Renault Sport. But the name Alpine continues to make you dream, with its record of achievements in particular. However, at the time, Rémi Deconinck answered me that nobody knew Alpine any more. I thought it was a pity because the competitors didn’t hesitate to put forward their Mini sports cars or their Abarths…”

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I believe that at the beginning of 2010, you came up with a model that could use the Gordini name?
A.B.: “Gordini for many people is first and foremost the R8, an excessively affordable sports car. And what do we have in the lineup as an affordable sedan? The Dacia Logan! In 2011 I had the idea of offering a Dacia Logan Gordini, the equivalent of this iconic R8 Gordini: sporty and cheap.”

And the return of the R5, what do you think?
A.B.: “You could say it’s an easy card to play! Luca de Meo knows this playing field from his experience with the Fiat 500. Already, when we designed the current Twingo, we had a Renault 5 Turbo in the design workshop. The Twin’Z and Twin’Run concept cars were largely influenced by the R5 Turbo. It was even envisaged to move towards the R5 name for this 4th generation Twingo, but the management was not ready. It would also be logical for this future Renault 5 to have its R5 Alpine derivative, as in 1976!”

Renaulution did not mention the Espace, the Scénic or the future top-of-the-range Renault…
A.B. : “Frankly, I think it’s very wise to concentrate on what Renault knows how to do, on the most buoyant market in Europe by favouring the development of products in the C segment. As with Opel or Ford, it’s difficult to fight with the Germans on the top of the range territory. But the Renaulution plan is a three-stage rocket, let’s wait a little… Maybe in the second phase, why not?”

Interview by Christophe Bonnaud. Thanks to Axel Breun for his welcome and his availability. Axel has been passionate about Alpine since his youngest age! (see below)

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