At the Paris Motor Show, Lotus announced plans for an extraordinary explosion of new products which will, company bosses say, put six brand-new Lotus models into the market by 2016, establish a new design style for all future models and bring an end to the company's 15 years of accumulated losses. If successful, the new cars will move the company's image – and prices – into Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche territory.
“Our plan is to change Lotus from its present position as a niche sports car company to a builder of a range of premium sports cars,” says CEO Dany Bahar, architect of the company's new five-year plan.
A couple of the six new Lotus concepts are intended for production even sooner than the front-engined V8 Elite hybrid revealed as a styling model last week and proposed for 2014. The new cars, whose launch is being accompanied by developments costing many millions to Lotus' factories, design facilities, test track and motorsport activities, and there is to be a new museum and heritage center. The work, which has already started, will involve “fully funded” expenditure running to $1.2 billion over the next decade.
The models include a replacement for the Elise, an all-new Esprit, the Elite and a larger Eterne sedan based on it, a new Elan and even a new city car co-developed with parent firm Proton.
The whole project is being underwritten by Malaysian-based Proton, Lotus' parent, which decided 18 months after a radical change of management (and management policy) that it had only two stark options with Lotus' future: to hold an immediate fire sale or develop the company to the extent of its potential. That was when the new Proton team began talking to Bahar, then a sales and marketing chief at Ferrari in Maranello, and the plan took “maybe three months” to devise.
The new Lotus models, which Bahar insists will employ the purist engineering principles of lightness and simplicity pioneered the earliest Lotuses by the company's founder, Colin Chapman, will take the company from annual production of around 2,700 sub-$60,000 cars, to between 6,000 and 7,000 cars costing between $125,000 and $190,000. Even the Elise replacement, by the time it reaches production in 2015, will have an entry price approaching $60,000.