Lotus Isn't Healthy In Its Home Market, Either
Brits love British cars. Even if the vast majority of traditionally British brands are now foreign-owned – Tata runs Jaguar and Land Rover, for example, and Rolls-Royce and Bentley belong to BMW and Volkswagen, respectively – the loyalty carved out by these famous automakers is tangible.
Lotus’s forthcoming departure from the American market is of little surprise to enthusiasts familiar with the company’s situation. Malaysia’s Proton owns the company, but unlike the aforementioned British brands, Lotus has not held on to any meaningful trace of the UK car market.
Of course, this has plenty to do with the actual Lotus sports car range and very little, perhaps nothing, to do with the location of the brand’s HQ. This is a brand that has basically existed in a form of turmoil from the get-go. The most recent plans to produce a relatively massive five car lineup, after being roundly mocked for their extravagance, were squashed. Just last week Lotus announced that the size of its workforce may need to be dramatically reduced.
Thus, there’s nothing to suggest that Lotus should be anything but a low-volume sports car brand. But an extraordinarily low-volume sports car brand? A totally forgotten sports car brand? A mostly ignored sports car brand? And in their home market?
This year, the U.S. market is slightly more than seven times the size of the United Kingdom’s car market. The UK industry is somewhat more comparable to the Canadian market in terms of total sales. Yet Bentley sales in the U.S. aren’t even double what Bentley achieves in the UK. This year, Jaguar sales in the UK are up 14%, and Jaguar is selling more cars in the UK than in the United States. Land Rover UK volume is on par with Land Rover volume in America. U.S. sales at Mini are only 32% better than Mini sales in the UK.
But Lotus has only sold 153 cars in the United Kingdom this year. That represents a 22-unit increase through eight months. In fact, Lotus sales in August were reportedly up 167% to 24 units. Yet at levels this low, the “trend” is hardly applicable. This is simply not the kind of volume an automaker requires to stay alive in a market which is chugging along at nearly 200,000 monthly units.
We don’t have access to Lotus’s U.S. sales – that’s not something they publish. ( Automotive News reported an estimate of 112 sales in the first two-thirds of 2014.) The issue isn’t the cross-Atlantic comparison, but rather the gradual decline of Lotus closer to its Hethel home. During the first eight months of 2008, for instance, Lotus had sold 479 cars in the UK. Lotus had sold 628 cars in its home market through the first eight months of 2004, just one decade ago, 2.7 times the total achieved by Aston Martin. Yes, Aston Martin does fairly well in the UK, too, though sales are down 10% this year. For every one Lotus sold in the UK this year, according to the SMMT, Brits buy 3.6 Astons.
The concern here isn’t for the enthusiast who is just now realizing he may never drive a reincarnated Elan around Elkhart Lake’s Road America. (News that Lotus may return to the U.S. in 2016 with the Evora, requiring dealers to soldier on with no road cars, led Jalopnik’s Patrick George to rightly ask, “Can they make it?”)
Instead, the concern should justifiably be that, in the very near future, Lotus will be nothing more than the suspension tuner for the Hyundai Genesis, with perhaps no car lineup of its own.
Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.
Join the conversation
Latest Car ReviewsRead more
Latest Product ReviewsRead more
- Alan The Prado shouldn't have the Landcruiser name attached. It isn't a Landcruiser as much as a Tacoma or 4 Runner or a FJ Cruiser. Toyota have used the Landcruiser name as a marketing exercise for years. In Australia the RAV4 even had Landcruiser attached years ago! The Toyota Landcruiser is the Landcruiser, not a tarted up Tacoma wagon.Here a GX Prado cost about $61k before on roads, this is about $41k USD. This is a 2.8 diesel 4x4 with all the off road tricky stuff, plus AC, power windows, etc. I'm wondering if Toyota will perform the Nissan Armada treatment on it and debase the Prado. The Patrol here is actually as capable and possibly more capable than the Landcruiser off road (according to some reviews). The Armada was 'muricanised and the off road ability was reduced a lot. Who ever heard of a 2 wheel drive Patrol.Does the US need the Prado? Why not. Another option to choose from built by Toyota that is overpriced and uses old tech.My sister had a Prado Grande, I didn't think much of it. It was narrow inside and not that comfortable. Her Grand Cherokee was more comfortable and now her Toureg is even more comfortable, but you can still feel the road in the seat of your pants and ears.
- Jeffrey No tis vehicle doen't need to come to America. The market if flooded in this segment what we need are fun affordable vehicles.
- Nrd515 I don't really see the point of annual inspections, especially when the car is under 3 years (warranty) old. Inspections should be safety related, ONLY, none of the nonsensical CA ARB rules that end up being something like, "Your air intake doesn't have an ARB sticker on it, so you have to remove it and buy one just like it that does have the ARB sticker on it!". If the car or whatever isn't puking smoke out of it, and it doesn't make your eyes water, like an old Chevy Bel-Air I was behind on Wed did, it's fine. I was stuck in traffic behind that old car, and wow, the gasoline smell was super potent. It was in nice shape, but man, it was choking me. I was amused by the 80 something old guy driving it, he even had a hat with a feather in it, THE sign of someone you don't want to be driving anywhere near you.
- Lou_BC "15mpg EPA" The 2023 ZR2 Colorado is supposed to be 16 mpg
- ToolGuy "The more aerodynamic, organic shape of the Mark VIII meant ride height was slightly lower than before at 53.6 inches, over 54.2” for the Mark VII."• I am not sure that ride height means what you think it means.Elaboration: There is some possible disagreement about what "ride height" refers to. Some say ground clearance, some say H point (without calling it that), some say something else. But none of those people would use a number of over 4 feet for a stock Mark anything.Then you go on to use it correctly ("A notable advancement in the Mark VIII’s suspension was programming to lower the ride height slightly at high speeds, which assisted fuel economy via improved aerodynamics.") so what do I know. Plus, I ended a sentence with a preposition. 🙂
Think of Lotus as more like other British outfits Mclaren or Cosworth. Mostly engineering projects for other companies, they don't build it they design it and get it ready for production. Not just automotive stuff. The cars are just for image and mostly a sideline. Even in the 60's they always sold more Lotus Cortinas than Elans. Proton is having their own problems, since they no longer have a protected market where they sell re-badged outdated Mitsubishis in their home country. They have run out of cash.
Even if Lotus collapses (how many times recently?) again, it will be revived. They can always slim down to their engineering business - again - until some fool with a lot of money comes along and says: "let's revive Lotus!" It'll happen, promise.