Combustion 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: jordan butters
lotus sports cars were once used in james bond movies and the brand had a highly successful formula 1 team – but those glorious days were decades ago. In the past decade, the former lotus high gloss faded visibly: the brits wore out ceos like 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, not even a marginal note in the car world. However, lotus has had a new, financially strong owner for four years: li shufu (57), founder of the chinese car manufacturer 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 billion-dollar investments available, as manager magazin reported just under two years ago.
Now a report in the "financial times" shows that (FT) 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 exclusively electric cars in the future – and sales figures to "tens of thousands" by the middle of the decade increase vehicles annually. It almost sounds like a speech by boris johnson about the uK’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 sports cars as well as purely battery-powered sports cars. lotus is currently 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 figures at the main plant in hethel are expected 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 automotive market", lotus CEO since january, matt windle, told the FT. "When the lifestyle products and the new sports cars come on the market, we’re talking about tens of thousands of cars a year, not thousands.". While sports car production will remain in the uK, the suvs are to be manufactured in china in the future. And, as befits a sports car brand, lotus already has the prototype of an electric "hypercar" presents: the evija, a bolide 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 vehicles, generating sales of 96 million pounds and a loss of 14 million pounds. FT says poor figures are due to outdated product range. The elise, evora and exige sports car models currently being built will be completely cancelled, and from the end of the year only the new emira will be built in hethel – and in the future then purely electric sports cars.
These will then stand on one of a total of two all-electric platforms being developed jointly with renault’s alpine sports car brand. according to windle, a collaboration on parts between the british and french is also conceivable, although no alpine models will be built in the uk or lotus sports cars in france.
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lotus’ expertise in lightweight construction will be used in the development of the second e-platform for electric suvs. The SUV platform also had to be "light and simple" be, said windle – and result in off-road cars that are fun to drive.
With its SUV plans, lotus is entering a hotly contested market segment among sports car specialists: in addition to porsche and lamborghini, the British competition from aston martin also has such a vehicle in its range with the DBX. even ferrari planned a higher sports car with the purosangue.
What lotus is still missing, however, windle told the FT, is that the brand still lacks a contract for batteries. However, only suppliers from Great Britain or the EU area are considered, because only in this way duty-free deliveries to Great Britain are possible. This also shows that the brexit is still causing problems for the british car industry.