In January, Renault CEO Luca de Meo opened up about plans for global expansion, with sub-brand Alpine given the role of planting flags in North America and China. As startup brands are finding of late, not only is making cars difficult, servicing them without an easily accessible network is a costly pain. Tesla’s been at it for a decade and Tesla owners still face a particular set of challenges. With de Meo looking for the best way into the U.S. market, AutoNation might have opened the front gate. Automotive News reports that the Renault chief has been in talks with AutoNation CEO Mike Manley — formerly top dog at Fiat Chrysler — about getting Alpines into showrooms.
This is all preliminary, mind. Renault’s working several angles, AutoNation but one of them. A few of the draws for going with the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida-based dealer group are that it’s well established, being 27 years old, having more than 300 outlets nationwide, and being the number-one-selling dealer group in the U.S. since 1997, a year after it was founded. In 2022, AutoNation sold 229,971 new cars, down from 262,403 new vehicles in 2021 and giving up the company’s longtime lead spot to the Lithia Motors dealer group.
And while AutoNation sells almost everything from Bentley to Nissan, it doesn’t sell Polestar or Lotus. We thought it didn’t sell Porsche, either, but a reader wrote in to inform us two Southern California Porsche dealerships are part of the AutoNation empire. Even with that, an Alpine A110 sports coupe would fill a nearly empty segment space on showroom floors, and the Alpine electric crossovers would need to put up a big fight for attention among competitors or Alpine partners. Renault is already in a joint venture with Polestar owner Geely for ICE and electrified ICE powertrain development and could work with Geely on a platform for the CUVs, and the electric Alpine A110 successor is rumored to spring from a partnership with Lotus. The smaller Alpine crossover for the States would be about the size of the Porsche Macan, the larger one about the size of the Porsche Cayenne Coupe.
If anything comes of the discussions, it’s also possible AutoNation starts as a digital front for ordering Alpines and is then able to service the cars that are sold. Renault has much to figure out about North American expansion, but the A110 is a tiny seller and the crossovers aren’t due here until 2028, so there’s time.