Why Alpine can never break into the mainstream
And why that is a good thing
The Small Guy Finishes Last
In the pages of automotive history lives a couple automakers that have successfully claimed a niche market, and few others that have stayed there. Companies like De Tomaso and Delorean made awesome looking cars, however they often failed to match beauty with function like the larger car companies could. Today, companies like Ares Design, Gordon Murray's T50, and to an extent, Alfa Romeo (Sorry Clarkson), build cars for people who fit that small category of wealthy car enthusiasts who want to add something unusual to their collection. It takes a level of arrogance mixed in with sophistication to buy a car that cannot be serviced everywhere, and might need to be serviced often.
Where Alpine Fits in
Alpine has created a fantastic car, no doubt about that. I remember watching James May's review of it, unsure about the looks but finding myself wanting one. However they entered into a crowded market. There are a ton of sports cars with better performance and better reliability for around that 50k USD mark. You have the option to choose between the mid engined, mid life crisis Porsche 718, the wanna be supercar C8 Corvette, or the not so supra Toyota Supra. So why would someone choose to buy an Alpine? I believe that the relative obscurity outside of the car world is massively appealing to people like James May. People who can buy basically any car they want, so they don't want something anyone else can have. They want to experience something different, and that is what an Alpine gives them.
A Possibly Downfall
The car at the top of this article is the new Alpine gtA, a more hardcore version of the A110. It is going to have a larger Flat6 engine, still in the middle, and improved aerodynamics. In addition, it appears weight saving measures have been utilized to cut down the already low curb weight even more. This, I believe, could turn into another success for Alpine. They have created a track day toy for people who are tired of being one of twenty Lotus's cruising around the track. However, Alpine is beginning to tread into dangerous waters. They are splitting their market even further, now competing with Lotus and other track day toys. These people usually care more about lap times than looks or exclusivity, and it will be extremely difficult for Alpine to compete with Lotus or Porsche's expertise in that department. In addition, they risk alienating their customer base by giving into the pressure of creating a high performance car. Alpine customers may not want a car that was built for the track, without the basic creature comforts that allow for long distance driving without a headache and a sore back. If Alpine has managed to create a track day car that still appeals to the wealthy people bored with corporate car design, it will be an instant classic. If they have broken away from what made them special, than we can say goodbye to another could've been great automaker.
Let me know what you think in the comments!