DRB-HICOM, which owns the Proton car company in Malaysia and Lotus in the UK, announced at the Jakarta launch of the Proton Preve that the British specialist sports car maker and engineering firm has been “cleaned up” and is proceeding with a three year product plan based on variants of the Elise, Exige and Evora cars, starting with the £52,900 Exige S roadster.
The iconic Caterham Seven is on the cusp of celebrating four decades of uninterrupted production and sales; hard to imagine that one of Colin Chapman’s first attempts at a sports car would outlast everything he produced in the post-F1 era of Lotus – hell, it may even outlast Lotus itself.
I’m not a reporter. I don’t even pretend to be one. What I do is tell stories and sometimes, if I am fortunate, they resonate with people. So when guy name Joe here in Buffalo contacted me and offered me a ride in his 1995 Lotus Esprit I was torn. Naturally, I wanted a ride, who wouldn’t? Still, I had to tell him up-front that I didn’t know if that a ride would generate a story good enough for the illustrious readership here at TTAC. Luckily for me, he invited me over anyhow and I got my ride, but in the end it turns out I was right. A ride, no matter how exhilarating, really wasn’t enough for me to create an entire story. That’s fortunate though, because Joe’s story about his almost lifelong connection to this one specific car is better than anything I could have invented.
Until the modern day revival of electric vehicles like the Teslas, Nissan’s Leaf or the Chevy Volt, the best selling electric car ever was the Detroit Electric, produced by the Anderson Carriage company from 1907 to 1939. They sold thousands of them (1914 was the high water mark with ~4,500 produced). Among the people who drove Detroit Electrics were electricity pioneers Thomas Edison and Charles Steinmetz and the wives of automotive industrialists Henry Ford and Henry Joy (he ran Packard). Interestingly, John D. Rockefeller, who made his enormous fortune from petroleum products like gasoline, owned a pair of Detroit Electric Model 46 Roadsters. Now, not only has the electric car industry been revived, but also the Detroit Electric company, which says it will start producing battery electric sports cars in a Michigan facility by the end of this summer. Following Tesla’s example, their first car will be based on a Lotus, in this case an Exige coupe, and the company promises two other “high performance” models in 2014. (Read More…)
Today, we’re going to talk rebadges. I know what you’re thinking: a TTAC post about rebadges. Here comes an assault on General Motors. You can almost hear the GM PR department groaning, except for the recently departed Joel Ewanick, who doesn’t have time to groan because he’s too busy putting out a garage fire. But I’m going to leave GM out of this. Mostly. Instead, I’m going to focus on some of the more obscure rebadges from the last few decades. They were all badly conceived. Most were poorly executed. And none of them should’ve happened.
In honor of Skyfall‘s opening tomorrow, we bring you one of the better Frankensteins we’ve seen in some time; a white Lotus Esprit, in the same hue as Roger Moore’s own ride in The Spy Who Loved Me, with a heart transplant from a Taurus SHO.
Timothy Cain’s sales numbers for the UK provide a pretty sobering snapshot of Lotus and its quest for survival. Year-to-date, the brand is dead last in the UK sales rankings, outsold by such luminaries as Perodua, Ssangyong and Proton.
Even now-defunct Saab is handily beating Lotus. In October, 16 Saabs were sold, versus 2 Lotus cars. YTD, 231 Saabs have been sold versus 122 Lotus cars. Time for some drastic action, no?
Ben Oliver’s essay in Automobile Magazine might be the best one I’ve read on Lotus and their existential predicament. While my own pieces are full of vitriol and cursing, Ben’s eloquent prose outlines the brand’s biggest problem; lacking the necessary volumes, they need to take advantage of economies of scale and high margins to survive as an auto maker. Sports cars that compete in the Porsche Cayman’s price range and performance envelope aren’t popular with buyers nor do they generate the volumes or profits necessary to keep an independent sports car maker afloat. The proposed option, a series of high-end sports cars built off a modular platform (similar to the Lotus-derived Aston Martin VH architecture) was met with little fanfare. The economic principles were sound, but the proposal alienated the faithful. Over to you, Best & Brightest.
With no less than three outlets reporting on the supposed death of the Lotus Esprit yesterday, one could be forgiven in thinking that Lotus was jettisoning the last of the Danny Bahar era and returning back to its roots as a maker of pure, uncompromising sports cars. It turns out that the reputable news outlets that reported on the matter failed to do any fact checking with Lotus. Also, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.