Caterham Chairman Tony Fernandes will seek further joint ventures with major car makers as part of his plan to expand the British manufacturer’s product range.
Fernandes’ vision for Caterham, which he and business partner Kamarudin Meranun bought in March 2011, involves growing into new areas such as crossovers and city cars.
The recently revealed AeroSeven concept is the first stage in a three-pronged strategy that will incorporate traditional Seven-based models, contemporarily styled cars such as the production version of the AeroSeven and the sports car being developed as a joint venture with Renault, and more functional vehicles.
Fernandes — who also owns the AirAsia airline — said he would like to see Caterham stray from its sports car base, with the new cars combining keen handling attributes with a more wide-ranging appeal.
However, he believes the company would have to go into partnership to fulfill his plan. “It has to be joint ventures,” he said. “When we started AirAsia, we couldn’t afford to buy planes; we had to lease them. With a car joint venture, we would in some ways be leasing other people’s technology by sharing platforms and using factories that have already been built.
“So if a car company has built a factory to do crossovers, and I can do 90 per cent [of a Caterham crossover] in that factory, I’m saving hundreds of millions of pounds in tooling. We want to keep it affordable, but as a small manufacturer you won’t do that on your own.”
Fernandes was adamant that Caterham would engineer its own, distinct identity into any new models to ensure they retain “lightweight, fun” characteristics. “The challenge for Caterham’s engineers will be to make sure you get into the car and think, ‘This is a Caterham’,” he added.