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Caterham Plans To Become Real Carmaker


Caterham AeroSeven Concept

Caterham AeroSeven Concept

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They grow up so fast, don't they?

Caterham Cars, best known for the minimalist (nee-Lotus) Seven, has announced plans to become a full-line car maker.

At the launch of the AeroSeven concept in Singapore, Caterham chairman Tony Fernandes said he wanted to expand the company into a brand with global reach and models in several market segments.

Fernandes, who with business partner Kamarudin Meranun purchased Caterham in March 2011, is best known for founding AirAsia. Can he pull off a similarly big feat with this small British sports car maker?

Expanding the model line is definitely part of the plan. Fernandes hopes to imbue these new models with a unique character that will keep them recognizable as Caterhams, and help them stand out in the market.

Fernandes told Autocar that the brand expansion will focus on spreading Caterham's traditional British engineering to new models, while keeping them as fun-to-drive as possible. There are plenty of premium brands (Jaguar, Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, etc.) that trade on the cache of British engineering, but Caterham has been building a very different type of product. Will it have the same halo effect?

Earlier this year, Fernandes said Caterham was working on an SUV and subcompact in partnership with Renault. It will also build its own version of the sports car it is co-developing with the French carmaker.

Expanding into more mainstream segments certainly worked for Porsche, but it will be interesting to see if Caterham can relate the spartan Seven to more practical models.

Fernandes also plans to leverage the company's F1 team to gain recognition.

Whether it works out or not, Caterham's transformation will definitely be interesting to watch.

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