LONDON -- Former Mercedes-Benz and PSA Group executive Jean-Marc Gales has stepped down as Lotus Cars CEO and will be replaced by Feng Qing Feng, chief technical officer of Lotus' owner, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group.
Geely Holding Group bought a 51 percent stake in Lotus last September when it promised to turn the niche UK automaker into a globally competitive brand and a leader in the sports car market.
Gales has "stabilized and turned Lotus to profitability for the first time in the iconic brand's history," Daniel Donghui Li, chief financial officer of Geely Holding and Lotus Cars chairman, said in a statement.
Gales will become chief strategic advisor to Donghui Li in a part-time role. Gales also joins UK-based classic car dealer and restorer JD Classics as CEO, Britain’s Autocar reported.
Gales, 55, who has led Lotus since 2014, reversed years of losses to a profit in 2017. His previous roles included head of brands for PSA Group and global sales director at Mercedes. Gales was seen as a steadying hand after previous CEO, former Ferrari executive Dany Bahar, was fired in 2012.
Gales cut Lotus' staff by a quarter and reduced the company’s supplier costs in his bid to end losses. He recently announced that Lotus was hiring again as it worked to engineer the brand's first SUV.
Vehicle sales increased to 1,600 last year from 1,232 in 2013.
After years of under-investment, Lotus is planning a product offensive that includes the SUV and an updated range of sports cars as part of Geely’s aim to increase production to more than 10,000 vehicles from 1,600.
Feng, 45, is already a Lotus board member. He is also a board member of Geely’s Lynk & CO, a recently launched brand partially owned by Volvo Cars.
Feng's appointment to the CEO role likely will accelerate the introduction of Geely technology into new Lotus models, and likely increase parts sharing with Volvo, a strategy already used at Geely’s taxi firm, the London Electric Vehicle Company. Lotus currently uses Toyota engines in all its models.