'We all love sports cars, but not enough of us buy them'

Renault could kill off the lovely Alpine A110 and that seems crazy, until you look at the reality of building and selling sports cars today.

Rumours persist that the Alpine A110, Renault’s recently reborn performance car, has its head on the metaphorical chopping block. We’re told that Renault is embarking on a £1.8billion cost-cutting programme and that very little is off the table. Factory closures, job losses and a withdrawal from Formula One have all been mentioned in the accompanying gossip and so has the culling of Alpine’s critically acclaimed coupe.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Naturally, this news isn’t being received well in car enthusiast quarters. We love the idea of exciting cars and car brands; social media echo chambers overflow with the opinions, images and culture that surround them. But there’s a danger of car fandom forming a disconnect with the real world. This is a world where global car manufacturers such as Renault operate, where every car has to find a market, then turn a profit.

Cars like the Alpine A110 are loved by enthusiasts. A historic brand brought back with a stunning, driver-focused, relatively affordable coupe; what’s not to like? But how many of the people proclaiming its brilliance bought one? The Audi TT was Europe’s best-selling small coupe in 2019 with over 8,500 sales, the Alpine A110 was second with just over half that. In March 2020 alone, Renault sold more than 14,000 Clios and 4,500 Zoes, despite the burgeoning pandemic. 

As with so much in life, when it comes to actually buying beautiful compact two-seater sports cars, practical considerations have a nasty habit of strangling our dreams. We end up with a car that can take a week’s supermarket shopping in the boot and doesn’t give you a hernia when you’re trying to fit a child car seat, instead of the one that will dilate our pupils and jolt our frail tickers up to 150 beats per minute on every traffic-free B-road.  

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

It all explains another trend that car enthusiasts love to hate, the seemingly unstoppable rise of the SUV. Indeed, we’ve already reported that Alpine does have its own designs on the SUV market where margins are wider and potential sales volumes dwarf those of small bespoke coupes. With new Renault boss Luca de Meo arriving imminently from SEAT, where he championed the Cupra performance sub-brand, Alpine may yet have a bright future. But will it involve cars like the A110?

With the sports car market as a whole accounting for less than 1% of European car sales, it’s no great surprise that these kinds of projects are in the firing line when savings need to be made. Cars like this do have a value beyond the bottom line precisely because they attract such interest and devotion from fans, casting reflected glory on more mundane offerings in the range. But in times like the ones the car industry is going through as a result of the coronavirus, there’s little room for sentiment in the boardroom. 

It’s sad that the kind of cars we love to talk and dream about might be in shorter supply in the months and years ahead. We hope manufacturers keep making them, but we should also understand if they decide they can’t. 

What do you think the future holds for the global sports car market? Have your say in the comments...



Visit New Alpine A110 Legende GT and Color Edition specials launched
Alpine A110

New Alpine A110 Legende GT and Color Edition specials launched

The comfort-focused Alpine A110 Legende GT and the fashion-conscious A110 Color Edition are on sale now, with prices starting at £60,000
3 Mar 2020
Visit Alpine unveils off-road tailored A110 SportsX
Alpine A110 SportsX - front
Alpine A110

Alpine unveils off-road tailored A110 SportsX

Lifted Alpine A110 SportsX adds rugged appeal to lightweight sports car
29 Jan 2020
Visit Best sports cars 2020
Mazda MX-5

Best sports cars 2020

From the McLaren 570S to Mazda MX-5, these are the 10 sports cars that we think are the best on sale
2 Jan 2020
Visit Alpine A110 review
Alpine A110 front
Alpine A110

Alpine A110 review

The Alpine A110 captures the magic of the 1960s original, with a lightweight and fun to drive ethos executed in a sleek two-door body
11 Dec 2019

Most Popular

Visit New Volkswagen Golf GTI ride review
Volkswagen Golf GTI Hatchback

New Volkswagen Golf GTI ride review

Hi-tech new controls aim to keep legendary Volkswagen Golf GTI hot hatch’s driving dynamics at the top of the class
12 May 2020
Visit Over a million unroadworthy vehicles set to return to the roads
Consumer news

Over a million unroadworthy vehicles set to return to the roads

Nearly 1.1 million vehicles given a six-month MoT extension are projected to have dangerous or major defects
22 May 2020
Visit New Hyundai i30 N 2020 review
Hyundai i30 N

New Hyundai i30 N 2020 review

Subtle updates make the Hyundai i30 N hot hatch even better suited to UK roads
22 May 2020