By on January 31, 2018

Evora 410

Lotus is an iconic automaker but, unfortunately, it hasn’t been a profitable one for years.* China’s Geely, which purchased a 51-percent stake in the brand last year, hopes to change that by investing “millions” into its production facilities. With the last factory revamp happening in 2009 to prepare for the Evora, that’s welcome news for Lotus. It also means new models are on the way.

Chief executive Jean-Marc Gales, a man who clearly enjoys his company’s cars, recently said that two new performance vehicles will arrive in 2020 — followed by an (apparently mandatory) sport utility vehicle. While we’re not enthralled by Lotus entering into the already bloated premium crossover segment, we’re hoping it’s willing to provide something different. Gales mentioned the model entering development a little over a year ago, saying “no one makes a lightweight, good-handling SUV. It’s a niche, and it looks well positioned.”

We would go even further by suggesting such a vehicle would be in the deepest recesses of said niche, as the very nature of an SUV automatically makes it heavier and sloppier on-road than a car. But people still buy them, especially from upscale manufacturers. A handsome and balanced crossover could be the money-making machine Lotus has been looking for. It certainly worked for Porsche.

Details on the vastly more interesting sports cars are slim. But Gales told Automotive News the models would arrive before the crossover in 2020 and that one would replace one of the models currently residing in Lotus’ stable. Odds are good it will be the Elise, if only because that model has gone unchanged for the longest period of time. It also might be a good idea for the brand to get a new-entry level model into more markets, as the NHTSA prohibited sales of the Elise in the U.S. after the 2011 model year.

One of the two new cars will use an updated version of Lotus’ bonded-aluminum platform (which the Elise/Exige also use), while the more expensive model will use a new carbon-fiber tub. Gales hinted that the latter example will position itself above the Evora and offer driving dynamics akin to the 3-Eleven. However, it won’t be quite so track-focused and will be street legal in all preliminary versions.

“It will be something similar but much more civilized because the 3-Eleven is pretty raw,” Gales said.

With a 3.5-liter aluminum V6 churning out 460 hp, the 1,962-pound car is literally a stripped-down racer. It even comes with a six-speed sequential gearbox. While Lotus does offer a heavier and less powerful road-going version with a traditional manual transmission and a handful of amenities, the passenger seat is still an optional extra. Despite being the slower incarnation of the 3-Eleven, the road version can still hit 60 mph in 3.3 seconds, with a top speed of about 180 mph.

Gales says the automaker will hire 300 people this year in Norfolk, England. Their intended purpose is to ensure the forthcoming models are the best the company has produced to date. He also said the company was cash-flow positive in 2017, with revenue up 24 percent to more than $142 million. He expects Lotus to become profitable in 2018.

That’s certainly a possibility, but next year could be a stretch. Despite witnessing a 13 percent sales increase against 2016, Lotus only sold 1,600 cars globally. It’s still progressing toward its goal of 3,000 annual deliveries. The big boost, according to Gales, will come once after the debut of new models. He’s anticipating SUV sales could boost yearly volume beyond 10,000 units, eventually.

The CEO hints the production of the crossover could take place in China and one other location. “I can imagine two places worldwide, and I would love one to be in the U.K., but there are many things we need to discuss,” Gales explained. “Brexit casts a shadow over everything.”

Meanwhile, both of the sports cars will be assembled in the United Kingdom by 2020 and should stick to Lotus’ existing formula. “We are very confident we can launch those sports cars in two years and beat the competition where we want to beat them,” Gales said. “We will never be No. 1 in luggage space, but we will be in handling.”

*Lotus finished the 2016-17 fiscal year with a positive EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) amounting to $2.6 million, which translates into a (much-reduced) $14.5 million pre-tax loss.

[Image: Lotus Cars]

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14 Comments on “Lotus Finally Talks Turkey on Upcoming Models – One of Which Could Suck...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    There is no shame for Lotus to enter the SUV/CUV market.

    For example, last year Alfa sold 2721 Stelvios, which was 23% of its 12031 US volume.

    It’s revenue, and I’m sure Lotus will create an interesting, unique entry, just as Alfa has.

    Too many people think the Porsche Panamera and Cayenne are heresy, also, but those are Porsche’s bread-and-butter today.

  • avatar

    “no one makes a lightweight, good-handling SUV. It’s a niche, and it looks well positioned.”

    What form does a family hauling utility vehicle take in order to make it lighter and better handling than say, a Macan or Stelvio, since those apparently aren’t that?

    The Stelvio handles pretty darned great.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      Porsche’s Macan weighs about as much as a Ford Edge, despite being smaller, and Alfa’s spec sheet list the Stelvio at over 4,000 lbs. Lotus will have to decide where the threshold for a lightweight SUV is. Shoppers likely won’t appreciate something totally stripped down and missing features but Lotus also can’t bring out a well-appointed brick if it hopes to maintain credibility as a performance automaker.

  • avatar

    Lotus, now being under Chinese ownership and rule, will necessarily succumb to the Curse of Chabuduo Culture, in other words become cheap Chinese crap. Expect Geely to have the audacity to try to charge a premium nevertheless.

  • avatar

    I’ve been a Lotus owner for over 30 years and have heard all this before. From what I see Geely has done with Volvo, I have some confidence they can keep Lotus going for awhile. Still there is some doubt that Lotus can be more than a track car and sell in decent numbers and make a profit.

  • avatar

    At the end of the 80’s – early 90’s, Porsche used to be where Lotus has been for decades. Look at where Porsche is now. I hope that Geely can turnaround Lotus.

  • avatar

    This is not new. Lotus showed off an SUV in the past.

  • avatar

    A Lotus SUV/CUV, standards just keep dropping on everything, everywhere. Pathetic.

    • 0 avatar

      Sadly apparently people only buy CUVs these days. Guess we can’t blame the automakers for giving people what they want. Porsche was the tipping point, once they proved this business model worked everyone else followed suit. It makes me sick but if this is what is required to keep Lotus around then it might be worth it. After all nobody is forcing us to buy this pathetic, decidedly un-Lotus-like mommy mobile when it arrives.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think that moral victory is worth all the jobs and livelihoods that would be destroyed by Lotus going out of business. As Porsche has demonstrated an SUV doesn’t have to be the death of the soul of a company. Is a 911 any worse because a Cayenne exists? I’d rather a 911 + Cayenne exist than neither. That’s the reality we live in today.

  • avatar
    Shortest Circuit

    So in the end, Dany Bahar was right all along?

  • avatar

    Wouldn’t it be cool if their SUV was built for pure performance rather than comfort…an off-road answer to the Elise…like an Ariel Nomad with a body. Think a street legal UTV or dune buggy.

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