It started with free coffee. During six years of painful budget austerity at Lotus, employees at the sports-car company's headquarters in eastern England had to pay for their own.
Then in 2017, Geely bought the company and installed machines that dispense coffee for free. Posh ones that grind the beans before each serving. "It's jolly nice," one employee told Automotive News.
Free coffee was the precursor of a tsunami of investment, the initial sum of which could run close to $2 billion, Bloomberg reported in August.
China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group — which also owns Volvo — has not formally laid out its plans, but signs are emerging that it wants Lotus to become a major player in the luxury market. One that that will take on Porsche, Maserati and even break into the ultraluxury space to poach customers from Bentley, Aston Martin, Ferrari and McLaren.
"Our ambition for Lotus is huge," said a Geely spokesman. He also said the U.S. and China were key to those plans.
Before Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales was replaced in September, he spoke of the company getting "substantial amounts" of investment from its new owner. "It's what I need to develop two new cars that are world class," he told Automotive News a year ago. He subsequently hinted that Lotus was planning a hypercar costing around $1.2 million. That halo car, reported by Autocar magazine in December as being electric, would head up a range including an SUV to challenge the Porsche Cayenne and almost certainly a revival of Lotus's iconic Esprit supercar, likely to arrive in 2020.