New products and platforms, a new headquarters, increased electrification and a digital sales strategy are all a part of Lotus’s future, announced at a Tuesday morning global press conference.
“Results to date have seen the expansion of our global landscape, while remaining true to the original intention and foundation of the brand, namely that we are ‘For the Drivers’,” said Feng Qingfeng, CEO, Group Lotus.
Founded in 1948 by Colin Chapman, the once-British sports car manufacturer was bought by Chinese automaker Geely in 2017, which also owns Volvo, Proton, Lynk & Co, and the London Taxi Company.
But Qingfen said that Chapman’s original vision of lightweight, aerodynamic construction is still alive and well. “We see Lotus Engineering as our core tech asset,” he said during the press conference.
To prove his point, Qingfen pointed to the Evija battery-electric hypercar, which the company revealed in 2019, with 2,000 horsepower. It exerts more downforce than its and a 3,700-pound curb weight and features 800-volt fast charging.
A new name for Lotus’ next sports car
Lotus revealed its new sports car, until now known only by its development code, Type 131, will be called the Emira when it makes its world debut July 6 at the Lotus Advanced Performance Centre near Norfolk, England.
Company officials say the car’s name is derived from ancient languages meaning “commander” or “leader.” A hybrid will not be offered, but the driveline will be the result of a new partnership and will be Lotus’ last gasoline-powered sports car, with a design inspired by the Evija.
James Hazlehurst, lead dynamics engineer on the Evija, said the development team has been focused on making this most extreme and unique of cars feel like a Lotus. “A key marker for any Lotus is the ’50-metre test,’ where within the first 50 meters of driving any of our cars you can feel the immediacy of the steering response and the connection to the road.”
The company says it will be the most powerful road car offered, with a near F1 levels of performance.
“The Elise, Exige and Evora will live on in the next generation of cars — cars like the all-new Lotus Emira,” said Matt Windle, managing director of Lotus Cars.
Transforming its business
By decade’s end, Lotus expects to be a fully electric vehicle manufacturer, a shift dictated by government mandates worldwide. The company’s new direction is possible only through a multi-billion-pound investment by Geely.
Despite Lotus’ Chinese ownership, manufacturing, engineering, advanced technology research and its headquarters will continue to be based in the United Kingdom, even as the company’s three existing sports cars end production this year.
Design will be based at Geely’s International design center in Gothenburg, Sweden, led by Peter Horbury — formerly with Ford Motor Co. and Volvo Cars. There is also a tech center in Frankfurt, Germany, as well as Geely’s electrification hub in China. Test driving and marketing are handled in the United States.
“We’ve done some things very, very well over the years, but use haven’t been able to turn that into sustainable business,” Wilde said. “What we need is a blend of what we know and do well that will lead to broader appeal amongst a global audience that will lead to more volume and profit,” Wilde said, pointing to Vision80, the company’s transformation plan, now in its fourth year.
The plan revolves around three strategies: transforming the business, revolutionizing its product range and delivering results every year. That Lotus could realize the first two is without question; it’s the final part that could prove elusive, as it has since its founding. The company broke even in 2019, and had a positive cash flow in 2020, with global sales up 4.4 percent.
Deep Chinese pockets, and Geely Auto Group’s manufacturing acumen, could bring the company what it has long lacked in its seven-decade existence: stability. This is enabling the company to dramatically advance its product range. “We like to think of ourselves as global tech Britain,” Wilde said. “Lotus of the future will be looking at intelligent technology. We want cars to understand the owners through AI or machine learning.”
What the future holds
Lotus engineers have developed four new architectures for the brand. The first, their hypercar architecture, underpins the Evija going into production later this year. The second, a sports car architecture, will underpin the sports car being revealed later this year.
The third, an electric premium architecture, for vehicles other than sports cars, and an electric sports car architecture developed in partnership with Group Renault’s Alpine brand, a collaboration announced in January. The E-Sports platform will support new vehicles from Alpine as well as Lotus. They will be sold in new showrooms, as Lotus launches a new retail identity worldwide.
“Our transformation is well under way,” Wilde said. “Evija goes into production, Emira is launched, and a new suite of four dedicated vehicle architectures is confirmed to further catapult Lotus into new markets, new segments and new volume territory.”
“Lotus has a famous history of fast-paced exploits and successes on the racetracks. In the future, that fast pace of change is translated to the roads and to the global automotive market”