After buying Lotus in 2017, China's Zhejiang Geely Holding promised to invest billions of dollars to turn the struggling UK sports car maker into a rival to Porsche or Maserati. The first fruits of that promise arrived when Lotus unveiled the full-electric Evija hypercar in London in July. The car is a $2 million statement of intent, but the hard part will be transforming the famous but under-resourced brand into a global player. Lotus CEO Phil Popham explained how this would be achieved during a roundtable discussion that included Automotive News Europe Correspondent Nick Gibbs.
You define Lotus as a high-end luxury sports car manufacturer. What does that mean in terms of price positioning and rivals?
The range we currently have is between 50,000 pounds and more than 100,000 pounds (about 55,000 euros to 110,000 euros) and with the exception of the hypercar, that's where we see our core range in terms of pricing in the future. That said, we do believe the Lotus brand has the potential to go beyond that, which is why we have made the step into hypercars, but that's not our immediate strategy.
What are your sales aspirations and where will you build them?
You will see a big investment at Hethel [Lotus' global headquarters in eastern England], not just in terms of the Evija but other future products. The skeleton building [left unfinished after Lotus' last attempt at growth under CEO Dany Bahar, who was fired in 2012] won't be a skeleton by the end of this year. We are a relatively small company. We will sell just under 1,700 units this year, but we have aspirations to quickly go beyond that. Hethel has a capacity of more than 10,000 on two shifts, and we will outgrow Hethel, so that gives you an indication of how far we will grow. We have opportunities to invest in manufacturing in China because of the infrastructure Geely has, but we will need to look at either something radical at Hethel or other facilities in the UK in the longer term. One thing we won't be doing is double tooling -- building cars in multiple locations.
How many models do you hope to sell?
That will depend on how many segments we enter. Our Vision 18 10-year plan is ambitious in terms of volume growth. We can go right from sports cars to sporty GTs to sporting sedans to crossovers to SUVs. What will dictate our decision is 1. Can we make money out of it? and 2. Is it a car that truly reflects the Lotus DNA, which is very specific and focused around the driving experience.
Will there be further electric cars after the Evija?
Electrification is part of our future. The Evija is our first step, if you discount the first Tesla being Lotus designed and engineered. Our next sports car will have an internal combustion engine. You will see it before the end of next year. Beyond that car every car we produce in whatever segment will offer a full-electric version.
Will you skip hybrids?
That is an option. One of the challenges is that hybridization brings unnecessary weight for sports cars. You have got an internal combustion engine, an electric motor and batteries. That is a real challenge in terms of [keeping the car] light weight.