Lotus Posts $750 Million Loss for 2023 While Also Setting Sales Record

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Lotus has reported a net loss of £594 million (about $751 million USD) for 2023. However the company actually had a good sales year, moving 6,970 vehicles in a twelve-month period. Lotus noted that sales ramped up in the final quarter of 2023, with the company seeing a 110-percent increase after the launch of the Lotus Eletre SUV. Though getting that vehicle, and other upcoming electric models, into production are one of the primary reasons for its crash burn.

Lotus is now in a situation where its new model looks poised to boost sales through 2024. But also has to recoup its investments into electrification, which should be aided by the upcoming launch of the all-electric Emeya grand tourer. Those models join the Emira sports coupe and Evija hypercar — the latter of which is so expensive and rare that you’ll probably never see one in the flesh.

Considering how well the Eletre SUV has performed thus far, there’s reason to back Lotus’ optimism for 2024. The real question is whether or not sales are sustainable beyond that. Despite corners of the world asserting forthcoming bans on combustion vehicles, EVs remain niche products catering to a very specific clientele. The good news for Lotus is that wealthy people seeking high-performance vehicles are a well-represented portion of that group.

The brand has long struggled to remain profitable. Historically British, the brand has an extremely rich heritage that failed to keep it from exchanging hands. General Motors purchased Lotus in 1986 and the company continued building lightweight sports cars. But the company eventually got stuck building countless variants of the Elise and Exige — which were already extremely similar automobiles.

China’s Geely bought a controlling stake in the company in 2017, with the remaining shares going to the holding company of Proton's major shareholder Syed Mokhtar Albukhary. Initially, it wasn’t clear what the plan for Lotus would be. However, Geely announced a joint venture with Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance and their Alpine performance division to build all-electric sports cars. That statement came in 2021 and was quickly followed by another confirming that billions would be invested into Lotus for the cause. It was to become an all-electric brand shooting for higher volumes.

Adding heavy batteries does seem to undermine Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s engineering maxim of “Simplify, then add lightness.” But Lotus had said that will remain an essential part of future designs.

Financial troubles aside, Lotus has stated that it’s right on track for its “Vision80 strategy.” The plan is to develop vehicles below the $80,000 threshold, broaden the model lineup, focus on electric vehicles, and average at least 150,000 units sold annually by 2028. It has quite a way to from achieving its sales goal. But the early numbers we are seeing from the Eletre launch is somewhat heartening.

Don’t like it? It might not even matter. While Lotus CEO Feng Qingfeng has stated that he wants the company to remain a globally recognized nameplate, he expects the brunt of future sales to stem from China. While the company is technically still British, with its headquarters based in Norfolk (specifically Hethel), its newest models are being produced in China and leadership clearly sees the region as its biggest market moving forward.

[Images: Lotus]

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Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Dr Mindbender Dr Mindbender on Apr 09, 2024

    Interesting what is happening to some of the old skool marques that somehow created mythological heroes in China...MG, Lotus, Chrysler, Buick...that are getting the names (the production is usually only a shell of the past) bought up by Geely, Stellantis, et. al., slapping them on brand new Chinese-designed cars, and selling the sh=t out of them locally. In Name Only. Very...interesting.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Apr 11, 2024

    Well, that pretty much gives the lie to "make it up on volume".

  • Varezhka The biggest underlying issue of Mitsubishi Motors was that for most of its history the commercial vehicles division was where all the profit was being made, subsidizing the passenger vehicle division losses. Just like Isuzu.And because it was a runt of a giant conglomerate who mainly operated B2G and B2B, it never got the attention it needed to really succeed. So when Daimler came in early 2000s and took away the money making Mitsubishi-Fuso commercial division, it was screwed.Right now it's living off of its legacy user base in SE Asia, while its new parent Nissan is sucking away at its remaining engineering expertise in EV and kei cars. I'd love to see the upcoming US market Delica, so crossing fingers they will last that long.
  • ToolGuy A deep-dive of the TTAC Podcast Archives gleans some valuable insight here.
  • Tassos I heard the same clueless, bigoted BULLSHEET about the Chinese brands, 40 years ago about the Japanese Brands, and more recently about the Koreans.If the Japanese and the Koreans have succeeded in the US market, at the expense of losers such as Fiat, Alfa, Peugeot, and the Domestics,there is ZERO DOUBT in my mind, that if the Chinese want to succeed here, THEY WILL. No matter what one or two bigots do about it.PS try to distinguish between the hard working CHINESE PEOPLE and their GOVERNMENT once in your miserable lives.
  • 28-Cars-Later I guess Santa showed up with bales of cash for Mitsu this past Christmas.
  • Lou_BC I was looking at an extended warranty for my truck. The F&I guy was trying to sell me on the idea by telling me how his wife's Cadillac had 2 infotainment failures costing $4,600 dollars each and how it was very common in all of their products. These idiots can't build a reliable vehicle and they want me to trust them with the vehicle "taking over" for me.