Combustion engine finale: The Final Editions of the Lotus Elise Sport 240 (blue), Lotus Exige Sport 390 (yellow) and Exige Sport 420 (red) will only be built until the end of the year, when the Lotus Emira will follow as the last combustion model before the complete electric conversion
Photo by Jordan Butters
Lotus sports cars were once used in James Bond movies, and the brand had a highly successful Formula 1 team – but those glory days were a few decades ago. In the past decade, the former Lotus high gloss faded visibly: The British company wore out CEOs as if on an assembly line, changes of ownership repeatedly led to grandiose announcements – which were then never put into practice.
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Lotus sold just 1400 vehicles in 2020, in the car world such a thing is not even a marginal note. However, Lotus has had a new, financially strong owner for four years: Li Shufu (57), founder of Chinese carmaker Geely, Volvo owner and major Daimler shareholder. When he bought Lotus four years ago, Li declared that he wanted to revamp the ailing British sports car brand – and soon made billions in investments available, as manager magazin reported almost two years ago.
Now a report in the “Financial Times” shows (FT) on how far the Brits have already come with their comeback plans. Lotus can invest a total of 2.5 billion pounds by 2028 in the resurrection, the brand wants to produce only electric cars in the future – and the sales figures by the middle of the decade to “tens of thousands” Increase vehicles annually. This almost sounds like a speech by Boris Johnson about Britain’s bright post-Brexit future.
Lotus plant planned in China
Lotus is completely overhauling its model range to achieve this goal; in the future, the British company will produce electric SUVs in addition to purely battery-electric sports cars. Currently Lotus is creating hundreds of new jobs in the UK: From the end of the year, the Lotus Emira is to be built – the last sports car model with an internal combustion engine under the hood. Production numbers at the main plant in Hethel are set to triple over the next seven years, but at the same time Lotus will also open a plant in China – incidentally, the first Lotus factory outside the Kingdom.
“Tens of thousands instead of thousands of cars a year”
“The plan will take us into new segments and new parts of the car market”, Lotus CEO Matt Windle, who took over in January, told the FT. “When the lifestyle products and the new sports cars hit the market, we’re talking about tens of thousands of cars a year, not thousands.”. While sports car production will remain in the UK, SUVs are to be made in China in the future. And as befits a sports car brand, Lotus has already unveiled the prototype of an electric “hypercar” presented: The Evija, a racing car with 2000 hp, of which only 130 are to be built – at a unit price of a good 2 million euros.
Last year Lotus produced exactly 1378 cars, turned over 96 million pounds and wrote a loss of 14 million pounds. The poor numbers, the FT says, are due to the outdated product lineup. The currently built Elise, Evora and Exige sports car models will be completely cancelled, and from the end of the year only the new Emira will be built in Hethel – and in future then pure electric sports cars.
These will then be on one of a total of two all-electric platforms being developed jointly with Renault’s Alpine sports car brand. Collaboration on parts between the Brits and French is also conceivable, according to Windle, though no building of Alpine models in the UK or Lotus sports cars in France.
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Lotus’ expertise in lightweight construction will be incorporated in development of second E-platform for electric SUVs. The SUV platform must also be “light and simple” Will be, Windle said – and result in off-road cars that are fun to drive.
With its SUV plans Lotus enters a competitive market segment among sports car specialists: Besides Porsche and Lamborghini also the British competitor of Aston Martin has such a vehicle on offer with the DBX. Even Ferrari is planning a higher sports car with the Purosangue.
However, Windle also let slip to the FT what Lotus is still missing: The brand still lacks a deal on batteries. But only suppliers from Great Britain or the EU-area can be considered, because only this way duty free deliveries to Great Britain are possible. You can also see from this that the Brexit is still taking its toll on the British auto industry.