Caterham, the UK-based race and technology group, aims to build “tens of thousands” of own-brand cars a year by 2020, according to its CEO, former F1 team boss Mike Gascoyne.
The company, which a month ago signed a joint venture deal with Renault to build a co-operative sports car, was bought and is being rapidly developed by Malaysian airline billionaire Tony Fernandes, after he failed in an attempt to buy Lotus a year ago.
The Caterham and Renault sports cars will be near-identical under the skin, but the partners will each create their own styling. Caterham is using a combination of its own designers and “a well known UK design house” for the task. Gascoyne says the new coupé will “draw influence” from the Seven to create a family look.
When Autocar visited the Norfolk headquarters of newly established Caterham Innovation and Technology (CTI), it viewed a covered interior buck flanked by examples of the product’s eventual competitors, an Audi TT and a Porsche Boxster.
While work on the joint venture car will be the early priority, the company has already made plans for a range of “fun-related” Caterhams, not all of them sports cars.
“We’re not fools,” said Gascoyne. “Anyone can see that a company making nothing but two-seaters can’t hope to be very successful at present. Our cars will have other body styles. Our plan is to use Tony Fernandes’ contacts in Asia to sell cars into a specialist market that is expanding fast.” One route could be to launch a range of sports-related SUVs.
Caterham’s central aim, according to Gascoyne, is to build a profitable car company capable of helping to fund the F1 team. “We already have customers in the marine, aviation and racing industries,” said Gascoyne. “But our future is in building road cars. We’re here to make money.”
The Caterham empire now includes the F1 team (which recently moved to the former Arrows works in Oxfordshire), the traditional Caterham Cars business, an advanced composites firm in Germany and the Hingham-based CTI.