The joys of having Chinese investment to spend.
Lotus has gone through a lot of highs and lows, mostly the latter, over the past several years. Thanks to Chinese automaker Geely’s purchase last year, the legendary UK sports car company may finally receive the revival it deserves. Automotive News recently spent some time over at Lotus headquarters in Hethel, UK and came away with the strong impression Lotus will soon cause headaches for the likes of Porsche, Aston Martin, and even Bentley.
For starters, company employees now get free coffee at work. Yes, seriously. Due to serious budget issues, employees had to pay for their cup of joe each day. After Geely bought Lotus in 2017, free coffee returned after six years. That’s just one thing that’s happening thanks to Geely’s nearly $2 billion investment.
"Our ambition for Lotus is huge,” a Geely spokesman said. Both the US and China are essential to the brand’s future and we could see one of the two new sports cars planned for 2020 sometime this year. Previous CEO Jean-Marc Gales also hinted that an all-electric hypercar is in the works and could cost as much as $1.2 million. And, of course, there’s the SUV, which we’ve long known about. It’s still due to arrive by 2021 and will compete directly against the Porsche Cayenne. Oh, and an Esprit successor is also said to be happening.
But why is Lotus under Geely’s ownership looking so promising, aside from the finances? Where is the technology and vehicle platforms coming from? Is Lotus doing everything from scratch?
Not really. Geely also owns Volvo and Polestar, so expect for the unnamed Lotus SUV to ride on a Volvo platform while Polestar’s electric vehicle expertise can easily be applied and adapted for Lotus’ purposes. Once this new product launch gets underway, Lotus hopes to sell around 10,000 vehicles a year. In 2017, for example, Bentley sold a total of 11,089 vehicles worldwide.
Also thanks to Geely’s investment, Lotus is on a hiring spree, specifically seeking electrical systems engineers and even a manager for VIP sales. Poaching top executives from rivals is also happening, such as product strategy chief Uday Senapati who previously worked at Bentley. Marcus Blake, now Lotus commercial director, came from Aston Martin where he served as global marketing director.
Geely is also spending money in the town of Hethel itself. For example, it’s building a new visitor center and museum – just what Aston Martin, McLaren and Rolls-Royce have done. The idea is to lure customers and potential customers with a fancy schmancy pre-buying experience. Lotus even has its own test track, something Aston Martin, McLaren and even Bentley lack.
Despite everything, Lotus still has a long way to go if it wants to become a serious Porsche rival and maybe, just maybe, a Ferrari rival. Right now, the only Lotus sold in the US is the Evora but that will change in the near future.