The President of Caterham, Ansar Ali, has told CAR that he plans on making a new cheap (and closed-wheel) sporty car. There will be three different versions of the car, plus a racing model, and the one first in line will be out in 2015.
The model coming up next, that will be pictured alongside the beautiful Seven (seen here in picture), has been the brainchild of Ansar Ali since he took control of the company in 2005. However, it wasn’t until the Air Asia founder, Tony Fernandes, bought the company in 2011 that Ali Ansar was able to make his dreams come true. Of course, he needs all the budget and the support to bring this new car to market.
What Kind Of Model Does Ansar Ali Have In The Works?
He wants to do a car that he can bring into a lot of new markets, one that has a fixed roof and doors, basically a very easy sports car. This is what Ari told CAR. The plan is to introduce three models, and a coupe and a convertible included, and there will be a third variant that will come out that Caterham hasn’et settled on yet.
The new model is not going be based off of the Seven, interestingly, but it will be built from scratch from the ground up. That’s a pretty momentous achievement. It will take a lot of hard work. They’re starting from scratch as far as the platform technology and powertrain is concerned. This is all what Ali told CAR none of this is speculation. They’re not just trying to take the Seven and make it just a little bit bigger, higher, and wider. That would be a mistake to think that.
Is This Car Really Going To Be A Real Caterham Model?
Ali is certain that the car will be. The goal here is to make affordable sports cars. The company is planning on staying within the areas that they’re already good at. They know exactly what they’re not good at doing, and they’re not going anywhere near that. The cars are going to have a lot of raw power. They are going to be drivers’ cars.
Caterhams are designed with the driver in mind. They are light, engaging, and cheap. £30K-45K is not a lot to ask for. The whole point is to have a great driving experience. The Seven is all about creating a great driving experience. They try to reduce the drama in every product.
What Is The Point Of Caterham Building This New Model Then?
Caterham needs to expand, and they currently sell about 500 cars annually, and that’s not a whole lot. Plus, only Europe and Japan are its big markets. That’s kind of a limited sphere of narrow influence. The company has to reach out to new customers in new markets. Ali is certain that they can sell 2500 cars a year that are split between the three variants that it has.
The USA is not currently on Ali’s sights, but they do have one model coming out there. The SP/300R is due out there in 2013. The Easter is currently on Caterham’s agend. The new Caterham owner, Tony Fernandes, has business connections in the Far East. Ali says all that means that there will be new stipulations for customers. They will start to offer doors, windows, and air conditioning. No one’s going to buy a Seven in the emerging markets like Asia and India because the air is too hot, and you’ll die from heat exhaustion. You have to add air conditioning for heat exhaustion.
What about airbag and ESP requirements? Well, it won’t come on it standard, but the Caterham will product ensure it so that it will be engineered to accommodate any abilities that will be required to pass whole vehicle type approval tests. The new parts won’t be required for the car, but if it ever comes down to it where it will be required, then it won’t be hard to re-engineer the car.
What Will The New Model Look Like?
Caterham really doesn’t have a strong design history to draw upon.
That question was recently put to Ali, and he said it was a big challenge because he told a couple of design houses that he wanted a design language, not just a design, and there were a few that phoned back and loved to be involved. People want a language that they think is the design language of Caterham.
The project has been ongoing for over six months, and the driving position and architecture have been worked on first, and only in the last few weeks have the design proposals been finished.
What Else Can We Learn About The New Caterham?
A sub-1000kg kerbweight is the final set-upon target, and it’s wonderful to hear that it’s the marketing department that has set these big targets. They understand that Caterham has to stay true to its core values, and they don’t shy away from that, and they embrace it fully. It will seat just a couple of people, and Ali realized early on that it would be better to have a front-engine car and rear-wheel drive, and a layout that is akin to the Seven too, and all the variants will have closed-wheels. Think of the Mazda MX-5 and Ginetta G40R for a clue o the size.
With such feathery kerbweight, we can expect the new cars to go with the four-cylinder engines, but Ali says that the power-to-weight ratio will be about the same as the current Seven. Think of something similar to the Seven Classic for around the price range of £30k and a much faster target at around £45k.
The new car probably won’t use Ford power like the Seven range does, and Ali said that Caterham is in the process of talking to Blue Oval as well as other manufacturers. Firstly, the cars will be aspirated, but forced induction models are part of the new plans for all later models. An automatic gearbox or a paddleshift unit could be an option.
What Else Is There?
The convertible model has yet to be identified. It could be a full convertible, targa model, or something else, but Ali is thinking more about the former to add driving thrills. The car’s tube will be made from something, not carbon, that will provide all the rigidity that will be needed without having to add any extra stiffening to the mix.
Caterham is really deciding about whether to launch the convertible or coupe first, and the second one will follow the first model. The first car will come out in 2013, and that is before it will go on sale in 2015. A new factory will build the car and put it together completely because a kit just sends a negative idea to the user’s mind. It’s a bad business model too.
Ali is saying that they have to do a one-make series as well as a racing version, otherwise it wouldn’t be a Caterham. The Caterham name is attached to racing cars. The majority of the cars will be road cars.
What Does CAR Say About It All?
It’s easy to chuckle at Ali’s plan because of his former record at Lotus general manager.
However, for a brand that sells just 500 cars, the company already has massive global awareness. Its entry into Formula One should only bring the company’s image further into the limelight. It can only go up from here.
The emerging markets that Caterham is going after should have gotten more mature by the time the car actually launches too. Customers will want a raw driving experience. Caterham is not going to lose its values either, as some feel Lotus is doing. It is actually doubling the weight of the Seven, but 1000kg is still pretty light for any sports car with a closed cockpit.
This is not a last-ditch move either because Caterham has been profitable for quite some time, and they have made record profits in 2010, and it should start to post similar numbers in 2011. The new Caterham model might not be what the majority is wanting, but that’s never been the case with the brand.
Ali says that he has to remember what Caterham is about. He says that if he doesn’t anything could happen, and it might not be so good.