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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