While the implications of such a savage downturn in the car industry's fortunes were clear for all to see, nobody was quite sure how and when things would change. Now we're beginning to get some idea. If reports coming out of France are accurate, Renault may be set to close four factories, including the Alpine plant at Dieppe, as part of a bid to claw back €2 billion.
First reported by Le Canard Enchaine, a weekly satirical paper, and seized upon by Autocar
, the news is that Dieppe, Choisy-le-Roi and Fonderie de Bretagne are under threat. With the first dedicated to the A110, the latter two dealing with spare parts and powertrains respectively. A fourth factory, at Flins, is apparently not set to close; however, it's believed that it won't produce cars beyond the current generation. Given that it produces the pretty unpopular Nissan Micra, perhaps that was an easier decision to make than the others.
Certainly, however, it appears Alpine could be in danger as well. Because niche products always are in a crisis context, but also because sales have taken a bit of a hit. Even last August, a busy month, European sales were only nine up on the 2018 figure. The introduction of the A110 S didn't change the situation drastically, with 242 sales in November 2019 against 222 at the same time 12 months earlier. And while it's hardly representative to compare 2020 with 2019, this year's first quarter has seen little more than half the numbers of cars sold (255) as just the month of March saw last year (487). Of course, we'd wish for nothing but continued and unbridled success for the wonderful A110, but the stats are impossible to ignore. For reference, the same source suggests that, in March of this year, 721 Porsche 718s found homes in Europe. It's across two models and more derivatives, sure, though that's an awful lot more than double the Alpine's figure of 127.
Other models threatened by the restructuring include the Megane, Koleos and Talisman, the latter not sold in Britain. Should the predictions prove true, and these cars are culled at the end of their lifecycles, it would leave the Renault line-up as Zoe, Twizy, Clio, Captur and Kadjar (the Scenic said to have been under threat pre-Covid). Which is not all that many cars for such an eminent manufacturer, even if Renault are hardly likely to be the only firm streamlining ranges in the coming months and years. Let's hope the rumours prove nothing more than that, for the A110's existence as much as anything else; if any vehicle of the past few years could proffer some hope about the future of fast cars, it was the Alpine and its joyous parsimony at the top of the pile. Updates to follow as we have them.