Lotus has perplexed and antagonized a number of auto enthusiasts by announcing its intent to expand beyond niche sportscars and become a global sport-luxe brand in the vein of Porsche and Ferrari. By announcing five future cars at once, Lotus made an audacious splash in the industry, and painted a giant target on its back. At the same time, Lotus’s initial plans called for the use of Toyota V8s and hybrid systems, leading some to wonder if Lotus was even being audacious enough. After all, assuming it could play with Porsche’s and Ferraris using only mass-market customer engines was somehow cravenly conservative to the point of being obnoxiously ballsy. Surely Lotus realizes that bespoke drivetrains are crucial to building a global sportscar brand? Well, apparently the Hethel boys didn’t get it… at least until their potential customers made an issue of it.
Lotus CEO Dany Bahar tells Autocar that, after talking the issue over with prospective clients, he came to the realization that
In the mind of sports-car enthusiasts, Toyota power might not be good enough… We have done three engines for other manufacturers; why not do it ourselves?” he said. “The engine is the heart of a sports car; we should do our own product.
Gosh, you think? But Lotus was already working with a $1.2b turnaround budget that would have to cover development costs on five world-class performance cars, not to mention advertising, dealer net expansion and more. The question now is whether Lotus can afford to develop an engine family on top of all the work it still has to do. Bahar’s staff is studying the feasability of developing a V8 for the Esprit and a V6 for the Elan, and they say that developing an engine in-house could help create commonalities between the three planned mid-engined models (Esprit, Elan and Elise).
But the decision to build an engine at Hethel won’t actually be made until the end of January, and Bahar admits that neither prestige, nor customer input will play into the call, because
The decision then will be purely financial
So Lotus will probably be the Lexus sportscar division after all…