After years of turmoil, Lotus is set to launch a complete change of its portfolio, familiar nameplates like the Elise and Evora to be dropped in favor of an all-new line-up.
What can only be described as a radical transformation is set to kick off later this year when a new sports car known internally as the Lotus Type 131 makes its debut. A teaser image shows the electric Evija halo car alongside three other products under wraps that the British brand is expected to rapidly roll out to fill the upcoming gap in its roster.
“This year will be hugely significant for Lotus with new facilities coming on stream, a new sports car entering production and new levels of efficiency and quality that only a new car design and factory can deliver,” said CEO Phil Popham in a prepared statement.
Lotus, Popham added, “has emerged from 2020 strong and on track in the delivery of our Vision80 business plan.”
That will be good news for fans of the company after watching it stumble through a series of setbacks in recent years.
Founded by legendary race car driver and engineering whiz Colin Chapman, Lotus has perpetually struggled financially, bouncing from owner to owner, including General Motors, and then Indonesia’s Proton Motors.
Back in 2010, the marque’s former CEO Dany Bahar delivered a stop-the-presses surprise at the Paris Motor Show, announcing plans to roll out five all-new models as part of a grand brand reinvention.
It wasn’t to be. The plan was soon scrapped, Bahar fired, and Lotus sold by Proton to its current owner, China’s Geely – which also owns Volvo, among other brands. Geely has promised to pump in the money Lotus needs to finally get on its feet and, if the latest news is any indication, that finally might happen.
Much of what’s coming has been kept secret. Last summer, Lotus did confirm plans to join the ranks of companies bringing an electric hypercar to market. The Evija, we’ve been told, will punch out nearly 2,000 horsepower through all four wheels, enough to launch from 0 all the way up to 186 mph in a neck-snapping 9 seconds. Lotus plans to build just 130 of the Evijas.
As for the rest of the line-up, it will bring an end of the run for the Elise, Exige and Evora models.
In their stead, Lotus will bring us the Type 131 which is expected to be built on an all-new modular platform shared by the two other models we see under wraps. Beyond that, Lotus is saying little but we have been advised that they will stay true to founder Chapman’s oft-repeated mantra: “Simplify, and then add lightness.”
The Type 131 is expected to rely on conventional internal combustion power though, considering increasingly stringent global emissions rules – Great Britain itself planning to ban new gas and diesel vehicles in 2030 – it would be no surprise if it could get hybrid drive might be in the longer-term offing.
Among the other two models, one very well may be the all-electric model Lotus recently agreed to develop as part of a deal with Renault’s Alpine unit.
We’ll have to hang tight for any information about the third.
To get the Type 131 – and presumably the other two new models – into production, Lotus has invested 100 million pounds, or $136.6 million, into updating its Hethel assembly plant. It plans to hire in 131 workers to help get things going in the months ahead.
While Lotus has indicated we will see the new sports car this year, there’s a good chance it won’t reach showrooms around the world – including the U.S. – until 2022.