New Owner Says Lotus Will Be a Rival to Porsche and Ferrari ""

By | December 1, 2017

 

We Drive the 880-hp Jet-Vette and 171-mph Lotus 56 Turbine Racer and Manage to Not Die

Lotus has always had a thing for unsuitable partners, but that could be set to change with what we’re told will be a serious chunk of investment from its new owner, Chinese automaker Geely, which has the ambition to turn the British sports-car maker into a rival to Ferrari and Porsche.

That might sound outlandish given Lotus’s current position—it sold less than 1600 cars globally last year—yet the brand’s history in motorsport is as prestigious as it gets, and the launch and success of McLaren Automotive has proved that there is a market for top-flight performance cars from brands with a racing pedigree.

Former CEO Dany Bahar had big plans for Lotus, but they came to naught.

Former CEO Dany Bahar had big plans for Lotus, but they came to naught.

Lotus, however, has lurched from crisis to crisis with depressing regularity throughout much of the last three decades. The latest came in 2012 with the collapse of former boss Dany Bahar’s plan to launch a range of five all-new sports cars. Since then the company has struggled to raise investment funds, and although Lotus has returned to positive cash flow, it has been unable to do more than tweak its existing Elise/Exige and Evora model ranges.

The purchase by Geely was part of a bigger deal that saw the Chinese automaker take a 49 percent stake in Lotus’s former owner, Malaysian manufacturer Proton. Although the Lotus side of the deal was much smaller, Geely insiders say that the chance to take control of the iconic brand was a huge part of the appeal to company president An Cong Hui.

“We are making plans. We want to bring back the heritage of Lotus to be one of the top performers in the luxury-sports-car segment,” An said at the launch of the new Lynk & Co 01 in China earlier this week. “Lotus used to be ranked alongside Ferrari and Porsche, so we need to come back in that rank again.”

The proposed five-car lineup under Bahar.

The proposed five-car lineup under Bahar, circa 2012.

That’s a goal that certainly doesn’t lack for ambition. In the short term, a Lotus SUV is likely to be the first all-new model to be developed. Lotus had already started working on ideas for an SUV earlier this year, one that probably would have been based on its own lightweight bonded-aluminum architecture. Geely’s takeover changes things, especially given that the group also owns Volvo. We’re told that, although the company hasn’t yet officially greenlighted an SUV, it is considered a likely enough prospect that thoughts have already turned to which platform it would be based on, with the same Volvo Compact Modular Architecture that underpins the Volvo XC40 and the Lynk & Co 01 being the most obvious candidate. The platform has been designed to be flexible enough for high-performance applications, supporting both electrically and mechanically powered rear axles. The big issue is how to add an appropriately Lotus level of lightness; the XC40 T5 AWD weighs a not exactly svelte 3700 pounds, according to Volvo.

An SUV, new supercars, or more of the same? For Lotus, as of now, the future looks murky.

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