Lotus launches pursuit of Porsche, unveiling its latest petrol car
Lotus and its Chinese owner Geely want to turn what is now a small company making some 1,500 sports cars a year into a powerhouse that also produces tens of thousands of premium sedans and sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
“We recognize that we need to increase our revenues and that the sports car segment is limited,” Lotus chief executive Matt Windle told Reuters. “So we are looking to offer a variety of Lotus products across the range, for different people at different stages of their lives. “
The expansion plan is reminiscent of that of Volkswagen’s sports car brand, Porsche, which has grown considerably since the launch of its Cayenne SUV in 2002. Porsche has sold more than 90,000 Cayenne’s last year by far his bestseller with nearly three times the sales of his most famous car. , the 911.
The Lotus project begins with the Emira, which she unveiled at her factory in Hethel at a former Air Force base in eastern England where she plans to manufacture around 4,800 sports cars per year – with the ability to do more if demand is high.
The Emira, which will start at around 60,000 pounds ($ 83,000), is the first new gasoline-powered Lotus model in more than a decade, but it will be the last to run on fossil fuels.
Lotus designed it to look like a brother to its Evija, an electric “hypercar” that will have a production of just 130 cars – it’s the 130th model in Lotus’ 73-year history – and will sell for around two million. pounds ($ 2.8 million) each.
Showing the Emira and Evija side-by-side in the automaker’s studio, Russell Carr, head of design at Lotus, said he was eager to “sprinkle some of that fairy dust” on the new models. ” lifestyle ”of the company.
Geely bought a 51% stake in Lotus in 2017, ending years of financial hardship for the company under various previous owners who had forced it to put some new model launches on hold.
Lotus is now part of a growing empire for the Chinese automaker, which owns Sweden’s Volvo Cars and is the largest shareholder of Germany’s Daimler.
DYNAMIC GROWTH POTENTIAL
Geely founder Li Shufu aims to build a global business built around brands that share technology from a Chinese sourcing base under unique skins. He has largely left the details of how brands execute this strategy in the hands of local managers.
Geely and Lotus’ other shareholder, Malaysian Etika Automotive, are investing more than $ 2 billion to expand production, including a new factory in the Chinese city of Wuhan where the first new Lotus lifestyle models will be built.
“There is potential for dynamic growth at Lotus,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions. “But they must be careful not to dilute the Lotus name, because if their new models are not considered worthy of the name, it could damage the brand in the world.”
Design chief Carr said being part of a large automotive group has given Lotus access to technology it would have struggled to find on its own, like the display. touch screen of the Emira dashboard.
And in a nod to the evolution of consumption habits, the new sports car will offer a first for Lotus: cup holders.
Managing Director Windle also said Geely approved a request from Lotus to have its new SUVs and sedans built on a platform designed by the UK company – rather than sharing the foundation with Volvo or the all-electric Polestar.
Windle said this would allow Lotus to continue to function as a supplier and engineer for other automakers, which it has been doing for years with its Lotus Engineering division. He said several car manufacturers have shown interest in the Lotus EV platform.
Geely wants Lotus Engineering to be a separate technology company within its larger group of companies, pursuing its own autonomous, intelligent and electric mobility technologies.
Lotus is currently developing an electric sports car platform in partnership with Renault for the French company’s Alpine brand, and that frame will be available to other automakers as well.
Windle recognizes that getting into SUVs and sedans comes with risks.
“It’s a challenge and it moves away from what we are used to historically,” he said. “But then I would say our business case hasn’t worked historically either.”
($ 1 = 0.7234 pounds)
(Additional reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by David Clarke)
By Nick Carey