New management drop lightweight philosophy and push upmarket to take on Porsche, Ferrari and Aston

Lotus is planning a radical shake-up of its heritage as it pushes upmarket to take on Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin as part of what it is calling "the dawn of a new era".

The radical restructuring includes dropping founder Colin Chapman's 'lightweight and simple' ethos for all new cars, instead using more complex, more expensive and more upmarket manufacturing techniques.

Steve Cropley blog: Lotus's new direction - shocking and predictable

However, its current range is expected to survive for now - with only the new models adopting the company's radically altered philosophy.

While Lotus has refused to divulge its vision for the company's future until the Paris motor show in September, company owner Proton has held a briefing in Malaysia outlining its plans to make Lotus profitable within five years. Lotus has not made a profit for Proton since it bought it in 1996.

Proton and Lotus chairman Datuk Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh outlined the company's plans to build cars under a new motto, "Tomorrow’s luxury sports car, today".

The average car will cost £80,000-£110,000, the prices being justified by the use of technology including seven-speed twin clutch transmissions, active aerodynamics, continuously variable dampers, hybrid and range extender systems, heads up displays, and the option of more alternatively-fuelled variants.

Under the plan, Lotus plans to raise sales from the current 2000-25000 cars a year to 6000-8000 within five years. It will sell vehicles in 55 countries - up from the current 30.

These sales increases will be fuelled by a Lotus city car, which will be spun off Proton's own new city car, which was previewed by the EMAS concept by Italian design house Giugiaro at this year's Geneva motor show.

Both Proton and Lotus models will have the same powertrains and mechanical essentials. However there will be a high level of exterior and interior differentiation - leading to comparisons with the Aston Martin Cygnet, which is based on the Toyota iQ.

See pictures of the EMAS concept

Datuk Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh also outlined key appointments from rival manufacturers, which he hopes will fast-track Lotus into the luxury sportscar market.

These include ex-Ferrari man Dany Bahar, who is now Lotus CEO, ex-Ferrari director of design Donato Coco, Andreas Schlegel from Aston Martin's marketing and network development, Andreas Prillmann, formerly director of sales and business development at Ferrari, Robert Hentschel from EDAG USA and Frank Tuch, who was director of quality management at Porsche.

Datuk Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh also announced that Lotus Engineering will become more heavily involved in developing vehicles for Proton and Lotus Cars.

Lotus Engineering has also formed a strategic partnership with engine component company Fagor Ederlan to put the 1.2 liter three-cylinder Lotus Range Extender engine into production.

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Comments
68

23 June 2010

Initial thoughts:

1. Have to stop making the cars out of plastic

2. Have to get some new dealers good enough to sell into a customer base with increased expectations

3. Entering a pretty crowded part of the market with limited differentiation and pits them directly against really competent manufacturers like Porsche

4. Could be difficult to sell the new £110k sports cars alongside the £30k ones in a showroom environment

5. Just a bit of a shame to swap a rare ethos for a much more common one. The lightweight sports car concept is still a really appealing one and, in the current green climate, one that you would have thought had a real future

23 June 2010

I know the purists will hate it, but it sounds like a good business plan for the future. Clearly Lotus was lacking in areas like interior and overall quality, so improvements need to be paid for and raising prices is the best way to do that.

Lotus hasn't always been lightweight and simple. The Eclat and Elite/Excel always seemed to me, to be more on the luxury side than performance.

Looking at the new exec line-up (especially Dany Bahar) and it's aspirations in F1, clearly they see that the Lotus name and brand can be built up to rival Ferrari. I think that's a good thing. Lotus has been the poorly built sports car brand for too long.

23 June 2010

I smell disaster. The lightweightness is what makes Lotus Lotus! A heavy Elise just wouldn't be an Elise! Taking on Porsche, Aston Martin? Well, we've got Aston Martin to do that themselves. I'll reserve judgement until they actually make something for their 'new direction', but at the moment, I'm not at all convinced it'll work...

"The creative adult is the child who survived."

23 June 2010

One of the last uniquely British auto engineering companies joins the ranks of bigger, heavier and ... more expensive.

Why didn't they think of that before?

23 June 2010

Is this why the Lotus livery is popping up in different racing formulas including IRL & Formula 2 - International marketing strategy to bring more focus to Lotus?

NAK

23 June 2010

It is a mistake for Lotus to move away from its DNA. They have demonstrated little ability to produce cars that have the interior or value to justify a £30k price tag but this is more forgivable when the purchasers feels they are buying into a philosophy that is unique to that section of the market place. To move and successfully compete in a sector with other established players will take sustained investment, effort and time that I don’t believe Lotus have. In the medium term I can see Lotus changing hands and the new owners proudly proclaiming that they will reclaim Lotus’ heritage by building lightweight and simple sport cars.

23 June 2010

how interesting that Lotus are building more heavy and complex cars just as companies like Ferrari are focusing on building lighter, more fuel efficient cars..? don't they get what's happening in the market - from a regulator perspective if not yet from a consumer perspective..? They absolutely shouldn't abandon the DNA of their brand. It's stupid and leaves it open for another, better manufacturer to sweep in and steal the moral high ground on lightweight production. Why not focus on adding value to the lightweight model and - once you build a better car with a higher quality interior - charge a premium. Ins't that EXACTLY what Porsche, Ferrari and Lambo are all doing with their lightweight models?? Typical old school 'Ferrari guy' thinking, backed by an Asian manufacturer who simply doesn't get it. Bankrupt in 3 years...

23 June 2010

Thanks to strict regulations, the auto industry is slowly turning into a wash of look-alikes with different badges. This is an insane move by Proton however; they need to do something because they cannot continuously put money into a brand that is not turning a profit.

Personally I'd hone in more to Lotus' ideology to clearly define the marque and separate it from the segment leaders. There's nothing wrong with selling a so called shell for the real driving enthusiast and giving the exotic car buyer the opportunity to lavishly spec their car with a plethora of optional extras. Lastly would be a personal designer that would generate a one-off master piece for the customer even including a fee so that design would never be replicated.

In a nutshell for each model there would be Racing,Sport and Exclusive options.

23 June 2010

Question is how far did Chapman's ethos take Lotus commercially?

23 June 2010

suddenly everybody sees bright future in the high-end market...

call it McLaren, Lexus (ahahah), Aston Martin (Toyota, again??) and a million of supercar brands more , these last ones, aiming to produce sometimes between 20 to 50 cars and think to get from there profit and survival, and then we have this cruel reallity that is Lamborghini reducing production, Ferrari saying that they will get a way to improve their processes so that they can delivery the cars faster... and Porsche looking outside the 911 market to keep alive...

in wich world do you live, gentlemans?

the high-end market is shrinking!

Proton didn't got any profit with Lotus since 1996...

hey, why don't you sell it and yourselfs to Volkswagen?

you can get a profit that way!

...just talking.

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