Lotus: "We Must Sell More Cars Now"

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Lotus invited a considerable amount of schadenfreude when, about a year ago, it introduced not one new car, but an entire new lineup. And there have been plenty of opportunities to steal a mirthless laugh at Lotus’s expense, including when the firm backed away from Toyota engines, talked up the “authenticity” of a rolling chassis, ran into Chinese branding problems, and drew inadvertent comparisons to Reebok by hiring rapper/producer Swizz Beatz. And the hits keep coming. Lotus Senior Adviser, Former BMW executive Karl-Heinz Kalbfell tells Autocar

The brand is well known but the products are not. We are focusing on a new range of cars, but we must sell more cars now.

But how well can the brand be if the cars aren’t selling? Speaking as someone who spends bit of time interacting with auto enthusiasts, I’d argue there are actually some serious questions out there about what a Lotus is, what with all the talk of hybrids, folding hardtops, performance sedans and generally increased weights. But Kalbfell was just scratching the surface of the host of problems to be found in the land of the Lotus eaters…

Part of the problem: how do you go from building spartan, relatively affordable Elises to Ferrari-fighting supercars? Lotus had actually planned to kill its newest and most expensive car, the Evora, in favor of a new “Elan” that was part of the initial new lineup. Those plans changed earlier this yea r, when Lotus announced that it was dropping the Elan (weirdly, the model still appears on the Lotus website) and giving the Evora convertible, targa and club racer versions. More importantly, Lotus needs more expensive versions of the Evora (which starts at $64k) to build consumers up to the $150,000-ish projected price of its forthcoming Esprit flagship… which is coming, in the form of an Evora GTE that should come close to matching the Esprit’s price. There’s only one problem, explains Kalbfell

We have some great cars in our range, like the Evora. Many car companies would love to have the Evora in their range. Now the point must be to get the car on the shopping list of buyers… We cannot just jump buyers up from the Elise to the Esprit

Oh no? But Lotus can become a globally-recognized supercar brand despite not having a proper US dealer body or even a US-specific webpage… right, Herr Kalbfell?

We also have to work on the dealer body, the potential customers and what will be the aftersales service

Yes… now that you mention it, that might be a good call. Luckily Lotus’s management team, once described by CEO Dany Bahar as the “Real Madrid” (think New York Yankees) of the car industry, speaks with one voice and can lead their floundering firm to the promised land… right?

The company is not good at coming to a joint decision. So I am also creating a management platform where problems, delays, whatever can be discussed.

Oh. Well that’s not great. But, other than the product range problems, the short-term sales problems, the Chinese branding problems, the US dealer/service/support problems, the overhype problems and the management problems, everything is fine, right? Lotus is on track to become the next Porsche or Ferrari, right? Is that a fair assessment, Herr Kalbfell? Bueller? Anybody?

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  • Evan Evan on Oct 11, 2011

    As others have noted, the big problem with lotus is CEO Bahar. I have yet to read an interview with him in which he does not contradict himself with every response or display titanic ignorance about Lotus or his market. Companies rot from the top down. I hope the board of directors wakes up and fires this dolt before he does any more damage.

  • Eldard Eldard on Oct 13, 2011

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, most of the rich don't care for sports cars. Otherwise Ferrari and Lambo would be big independent companies, no?

  • 28-Cars-Later I'm actually surprised at this and not sure what to make of it. In recent memory Senator Biden has completely ignored an ecological disaster in Ohio, and then ignored a tragic fire in Hawaii until his handlers were goaded in sending him and his visit turned into it's own disaster, but we skipped nap time for this sh!t show? Seriously? We really are through the looking glass now, "votes" no longer matter (Hillary almost won being the worst presidential candidate since 1984 before he claimed the crown) and outside of Corvette nostalgia Joe doesn't care let alone know what day it happens to be. Could they really be afraid of Trump, who AFAIK has planned no appearance or run his mouth on this issue? Just doesn't make sense, granted this is Clown World so maybe its my fault for trying to find sense in a senseless act.
  • Tassos If you only changed your series to the CORRECT "Possibly Collectible, NOT Daily Driver, NOT Used car of the day", it would sound much more accurate AND TRUTHFUL.Now who would collect THIS heap of trash for whatever misguided reason, nostalgia for a much worse automotive era or whatever, is another question.
  • ToolGuy Price dropped $500 overnight. (Wait 10 more days and you might get it for free?)
  • Slavuta Must be all planned. Increase price of cars, urbanize, 15 minutes cities. Be poor, eat bugs
  • Sid SB Not seen a Core without the performance pack yet. Prefer the more understated look of the Core vs the Circuit, but both are great fun to drive.