Lotus looks to the future – Hethel's plans unwrapped
Electrification, ambitious plans for new models, and the formation of Lotus Advanced Performance – exciting times at Hethel
Geely has big plans for Lotus. That much has been evident from the very first weeks after it took a 51 per cent stake in the firm, back in 2017, when the old car park at Hethel was immaculately tarmacked. The transformation of the whole site has been fascinating to see; heart-warming, too, as it has demonstrated that Lotus’s owners are in it for the long haul rather than a quick headline or two.
New production facilities for the Evija hypercar and Emira sports car dominate the site and, while it’s a poignant moment as you walk through the former Elise/Exige/Evora production halls during their refurbishment to accommodate Emira sub-assembly, there’s also a buzz around the site that finally Lotus is getting the attention it’s always needed and, more importantly, those working there have deserved.
Redevelopment of Hethel is a significant project requiring a level of investment previously unheard of at Lotus, which is currently building its last series-production internal combustion-engined car before adapting to the ambitious future Geely has mapped out for it.
Electrification is at the core of those plans, starting with the Eletre SUV that was revealed at the end of March, quickly followed by a Porsche Taycan-rivalling sports saloon in 2024 and an additional SUV in 2025/26. The development of this trio will take place at Hethel and also at Lotus’s design and engineering campus in Warwickshire, a recently established technology hub in Frankfurt and Geely’s Wuhan factory and testing facility, where all three will be made. Lotus is going global.
They will all benefit from the recent news that Lotus has partnered with British Volt to ‘collaborate on the research and development of advanced EV technology’, this announcement accompanied by a design sketch of a sports coupe that will not only provide Lotus with a series-production electric sports car, but Alpine with an electrified platform for its A110 replacement as well as vital insight for its planned electric hot hatch and Porsche Macan rival.
This all sounds very promising, with the funding to support it set to be bolstered as Geely investigates an Initial Public Offering (IPO) for its China-based Lotus Technology division, of which it owns a 70 per cent stake. This would raise in the region of £5-6billion, the continued investment enabling Lotus to reach its 100,000 vehicle sales target by 2028, with a 90/10 per cent split between SUVs and sports cars. That’s quite a jump from 2021’s 1500 total sales, but Geely is ambitious, so too the people it has put in place at Lotus to deliver its goals.
While the aforementioned is the core focus and the road map for the firm’s future, Lotus has also announced the formation of Lotus Advanced Performance, a bespoke division of the car business allowing it to service the needs, requirements and wishes of customers who crave a Lotus that’s a little more bespoke and individual than those available via the firm’s new dealer network or directly from the factory’s sales facility.
Headed by Simon Lane, the man responsible for running Aston Martin’s Q division (arguably one of the few financially successful parts of the Gaydon business over the last few years), LAP will control the halo projects that Lotus MD Matt Windle and his team feel are right for Lotus. These cars will either be very special, very personal one-offs (think Aston Martin Victor) or small-series runs of models based on existing cars but with a very focused set of objectives.
The Evija has provided a huge learning curve as to what is possible in the low-volume, bespoke manufacturing world and with it has brought to Hethel a team of craftspeople who have the ambition, the knowledge and the resources to bring to life the wishes and dreams of customers. We’re talking beyond JPS Edition Emiras here.
Both road and track cars will be among the models LAP produces and, while Lotus’s heritage will be tapped into for inspiration along the way, it won’t dictate the plans and ideas.
Also falling under Lane’s remit will be the responsibility to create the limited edition models that go part and parcel with today’s product- line strategy. In the recent past the continuous run-out of Elise/Exige/Evora ‘specials’ will have tarnished the format for some, but the team is aware of this and knows what to avoid.
With so much being invested at Hethel, Lotus is keen for customers and fans to visit the venue, where driving experiences, motorsport (the first Emira GT4 cars are currently completing their test programme) and the Lotus Driving Academy now also fall under the Advanced Performance umbrella.
Speaking after his appointment, Lane said: ‘Working in tandem with the hugely experienced Lotus Design team and colleagues in our engineering teams around the world, we are going to build the most exciting and exclusive Lotus cars, embracing our exciting electrified future while also honouring our illustrious past.’