British sports car maker Lotus is set to unveil an all-new model as part of a five-year plan that has been signed off by parent company Geely, Lotus CEO Phil Popham has confirmed to Autocar. This will be built on existing Lotus architecture, albeit one that is heavily revised, the report said.
The new model that is set for debut next year will retain Lotus’ hallmark driving dynamics while offering improved practicality over the existing models with better ingress, egress, ergonomics and infotainment for its occupants, thus likely using the Evora as the base for the aforementioned intensive revisions. “There’s this one car, then the new platform,” said Popham, indicating this will be a bridge to the new generation.
Lotus will then expand its product portfolio to grow beyond the existing sports car range, the report said, with SUVs most likely to figure into the exapansion plan, while a limited-run, electric hypercar halo model could also be produced, although Popham has yet to confirm the latter.
“The focus for now is on replacing the products we’ve got today – the sports cars. In a long time, Lotus has not had sight of what is required. You need a long-term plan, a product plan and a business plan locked down with investment. We have that plan locked in,” Popham said, adding that all future Lotus models will eventually feature electrification.
The British sportscar maker is also looking to leverage its being part of a group such as Geely, where it can make use of the design, engineering and manufacturing opportunities for future models beyond sports cars as well as the future of its current engine deal with Toyota, which continues positively for now, Autocar notes.
“We’re not talking tens or hundreds of millions, but billions,” said Popham of the finances involved with Geely, the CEO adding that all conceptual work and product planning management will remain at Lotus, while packages could be sub-contracted back to Geely.
Development work on the new sports car architecture has already begun, and it may not retain the current bonded and extruded aluminium base if a better option is available, the report said. This will be developed from the outset to meet regulations in China and North America.
Its headuquarters in Hethel is already being expanded, with plans approved for a new customer experience centre and museum, the report added. This location will remain the home of its sports cars, with further investments in line for the improvement of its facilities. The manufacture of future models such as SUVs will take place elsewhere.
“Our DNA of driving dynamics, performance and lack of weight mean different things in different segments, but we’ll be renowned for them in the segments we’re in,” Popham said of the marque’s growth beyond sports cars, citing Porsche as a good example of how to grow, he said.
Lotus’ future sports cars must also take less time and cost to produce, and be more repeatable to produce, a result of architectures that have remained in production for too long and a reason for its inconsistent quality, the report said. The firm’s sports car range should remain accessible on price, Popham said, and he is not looking to take the price points of its sports car range beyond where it currently sit today.
“We’re going to do a lot on brand positioning, (in terms of) what it is, what it has been, and what it will be. This will then drive everything we do in the business, and most importantly the engineering team. The driving experience is at the heart of that. We will create the most dynamic cars we can but remove the barriers to purchase.” Popham said.
“There’s an intention to grow (Lotus Engineering), right now it’s about 15% of the group. We have several areas of expertise, in engine testing, lightweighting and aerodynamics, and it complements the group. We’ll do stuff for Geely but (we) can go outside the group. It’s a brand in its own right and adds credibility, while also allowing us to do stuff outside the industry.” the CEO added.