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Renault-built Caterham car plan scrapped: source

By Gilles Guillaume and Laurence Frost

PARIS (Reuters) - Renault and specialist sports car maker Caterham have dropped plans for joint production of a high-performance model for the British brand, a person familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The French automaker will brief unions on Wednesday about the unwinding of its nine-month-old joint venture with Caterham but continue solo development of a roadster to revive its own Alpine brand, the source said, citing an internal document.

Renault declined to comment on the termination of the deal, first reported by Agence France-Presse. Caterham officials were not immediately available for comment.

Under the agreement announced in November 2012 and signed seven months later, Renault and Caterham had planned to use their Formula One renown to build a following for affordable performance cars in Europe and Asia.

Tony Fernandes, the AirAsia founder who acquired Caterham in 2011 and controls the F1 team of the same name, had promised additional Renault-built models to turn the British kit car maker into a global premium player.

But the Caterham F1 team finished last in 2013 and has scored no points since it entered the sport as Lotus Racing three years earlier - prompting a January warning from Fernandes that he may walk away unless things improve.

Renault Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn also raised doubts about Caterham's future financial contributions to the joint venture during an internal meeting late last year, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Renault completed the sale of its own F1 team in 2010 but still supplies engines to Red Bull, Lotus, Toro Rosso and Caterham.

(Additional reporting by Keith Weir; Editing by Alison Williams)

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