New Lotus boss Jean-Marc Gales says the firm will look outside its primary sports car business for new models
19 September 2014

Lotus could be building saloon and SUV models within a decade as part of a transformation plan framed in secret over the past few months by its recently-arrived CEO, Jean-Marc Gales, who once led Peugeot. 

The idea was initially leaked on a Malaysian website claiming to be privy to Lotus's boardroom secrets but in an exclusive interview today with Autocar, Gales confirmed that the idea was very much on the table.

Speaking one day after it was revealed that Group Lotus' workforce could be cut by a quarter, a "very sad and regrettable" move that was needed to reshape the company and cut costs for the short term, Gales said his initial aim was to sharply increase sales of Lotus's three existing models - Elise, Exige and Evora - by making them better and increasing dealer spread. 

"You will see many new variants of familiar Lotus models over the next nine months, and even more in the next two years," he said. "Our cars will be faster, better made and more convenient to use but we will keep our relationship with Toyota as an engine partner so the cars will be also be very reliable and easy to own."

However, in the longer term Gales says he sees no reason why what he sees as Lotus's core values - lightness, dynamic ability and unique styling - cannot extend to "cars in other categories than the sports car". Gales does not have to add that the same strategy has already turned Porsche into a hugely profitable automotive powerhouse.

Lotus sales are up 46 per cent so far this year, and the company is confident of selling 2000 units this year, most of them in "good old Europe" though other markets are also looking promising. 

The company has recently opened nine more dealerships worldwide and has plans for a total of 20 within the next few months. Gales believes a reasonable production target with the existing model range is 3000 cars a year. 

He clearly believes a return to profitability is an urgent requirement, but refuses to be tied to a date beyond naming it as a short-term objective.

"I am 100 per cent confident we can get Lotus back to where it was in its greatest days," Gales says, "but it would be foolish to suggest the task will be easy."

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Our Verdict

Lotus Elise
Toyota-sourced 1.6 as standard, supercharged 1.8 in supercharged S

The Lotus Elise gets a Toyota-sourced 1.6 in a bid to tune mph/mpg mix

TBC

19 September 2014
If Lotus was a part of the Toyota empire and the plan was to allow Lotus engineers to work their magic on a couple of Lexus models (saloon and SUV) then I might believe this, as it is, not a chance.

19 September 2014
I suspect the reality might be different. I'm glad the Toyota partnership will continue. Hopefully they won't change the interior of the Elise/Exige. The fashion trend is currently for the 1980's and surely the 90's is just around the corner. That would save a fortune on sourcing new interior components and be down with the kids...or whatever they say these days.

19 September 2014
Diversification is essential to survive either as a species or a business. I am sure the engineering arm is doing great-guns but they need to find a way to grow and a saloon and SUV make the most sense given the market. However, it would be expensive to do it right (from the ground up) and using existing products would be too great of a compromise. I am afraid that they are in between a rock and a hard place there.

19 September 2014
The Cayenne helped Porsche with regards to its finances and is powering forward with the Macan. It could work for Lotus, especially if they use their in-house designed 600 bhp V8 which was to go into the new Esprit. Lotus make excellent handling cars, which are let down by poor interiors when compared to the Germans. A link between Lotus and JLR would be a good combination, with Lotus using SUV platforms (RR Sport/Evoque) from JLR: unlikely due to JLR moving into the sporty SUV business. If the new Esprit is close to production, then they should introduce it and spark new interest in the company from potential buyers.

19 September 2014
Closer working with Toyota would be a smart move for both parties. A bit of marketing trickery could pitch Lotus between Toyota and Lexus, with the result that Lexus appears more premium than at present, and Lotus becomes more attainable and a practical ownership proposition. It would be nice to see a 2+2 bread-van coupe based on the GT86 (i.e. Lotus Elite), and maybe a reworked and lightened Auris 4x4 (think Suburu Impreza Mk1). In the long term a premium small and lightweight coupe to rival MINI would be good, even if it means using the next Yaris as a basis. Working with JLR is also a possibility, a Jaguar/Lotus MX5 rival might be as far as the relationship could go though as Jaguar and Land Rover could cover all the niches, they also could bring back another marque from the ashes if they wanted to go high-volume.

TS7

19 September 2014
...being stranded at the side of the road. But being stranded 10 miles from the nearest road? No thanks.

20 September 2014
I getting sick of this. Lotus are great cars but not long ago they were to suppose to revived Esprit & get the 4 Elite & Limo which was Jaguar & Aston limo revival Eternal Limo. It will happen but maybe few more year time.

20 September 2014
I've always been sceptical of moves by companies to do SUV's. Porsche done good with cayenne because bulk of the development was already done by VW and shared across the brands. There are other avenues of growth and exposure to the lotus brand. i was thinking the Vauxhall carlton and ford cortina type of cars. if Lotus could make a limited run of say 100 or even perhaps 500 lotus tuned cars from each brand then it would create much needed revenue. entry into races would give exposure. sure, lotus engineering would have a large hand in this redevelopment but i'm sure lotus cars would also have a hand in rebuilding the cars.

20 September 2014
Colin Chapman is pirouetting in his grave. Assuming he's really dead, of course, and not hiding out in the Bahamas or somewhere...

21 September 2014
they cant even get their sports cars up in competition and now want to do an suv is not cheap from start up. worker lay off shall not be forgotten

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