Crossovers and city cars on Caterham starting grid

Caterham, famed for its FI racers and its roadsters has already launched a new concept car. Picture: Getty
Caterham, famed for its FI racers and its roadsters has already launched a new concept car. Picture: Getty
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SPORTS car maker Caterham yesterday outlined plans to introduce a range of crossover vehicles and city cars as it prepares for an assault on Asian markets.

Speaking at the launch of Caterham’s AeroSeven concept car, group chairman Tony Fernandes said that Asia would be the key commercial focus for the brand.

But Fernandes – who founded budget carrier AirAsia and bought Caterham in 2011 with business partner Kamarudin Meranun – promised the marque would retain its core focus on producing racing cars.

The Malaysian entrepreneur said: “Caterham has been a British institution for the past 40 years – and an automotive secret in many ways – but, in the very near future, the Caterham name will sit proudly on crossovers, city cars as well as a range of sportscars for everyone.”

Fernandes and Meranun launched AirAsia 12 years ago under the slogan “Now everyone can fly” and have since gone on to found the Tune Group, which opened its first hotel in Edinburgh earlier this year.

“Twelve years ago, we were told our plans for AirAsia could not work,” said Fernandes. “Today, AirAsia is the world’s most-profitable airline. We’re fulfilling our dream that ‘everyone can fly’.”

News of Caterham’s expansion plans comes after the company signed a deal with Renault to produce a joint sports car with the French motoring giant’s Alpine marque.

The Oxfordshire-based company has launched four models this year, including the entry-level Caterham 165, which is powered by a Suzuki engine.

This year’s other releases have been the 485 for the European market and the flagship 620R, the latest incarnation of the legendary Caterham Seven light-weight sports car.

“The joint venture with Renault to produce an all-new sportscar for both the Alpine and Caterham brands demonstrates our clear intent on doing this right, doing it sensibly, but above all, doing it the Caterham way,” Fernandes said.

“And because we’re a flat company, we’re a quicker company. When we say we’re going to do things internally, we do them. We don’t procrastinate and lose momentum through legions of middle-management decision makers, we just do it.”

Fernandes remained tight-lipped over sales targets for his crossover and city cars. He said: “We’re focused on developing the right products; with the right retail experience, in the right markets, at the right time. The sales will then come.”

Caterham’s expansion plan comes just weeks after fellow Malaysian-owned car company Lotus said it would create 100 jobs at its plant at Hethel, in Norfolk, following a £100 million investment from DRB-Hicom, which bought parent company Proton last year.

Fernandes initially entered a team in Formula 1 in 2010 under the Lotus Racing liverary.

But Proton then withdrew his licence to use the brand, forcing him to change the car’s name to Team Lotus in 2011 before swapping again to Caterham F1 last season.

Renault’s F1 team has since taken up the Lotus moniker.