Lotus has just revealed the 1973bhp Evija, the all-electric hypercar it claims will be “the most powerful production car in the world”.
Talking to Autocar at the reveal event, CEO Phil Popham explains the thinking behind the Evija and the next steps for the iconic sports car brand.
Why have you chosen to build a car like this — so exclusive and expensive?
Popham: "We believe that if you want to make ripples, you have to made a splash. If you want to be on the map, you have to make a mark. This car shows what our future can be like. It shows what we can do, and it paves the way for future visionary Lotus models."
Does it mean you’re planning a succession of hyper-expensive models?
"First of all, our 10-year plan, which we call Vision 80, contains a commitment to be 'for the driver', first, last and always. Lotus models will always be at the heart of driver involvement and enjoyment. But the range of cars we have now runs from the mid £50,000s to well over £100,000 and we see our core future models, apart from our new Hypercar, as continuing to be in the that range. Having said that, we do believe the Lotus brand has the equity to go beyond where it is. But that’s not our immediate strategy."
What is your immediate strategy?
"After we’ve built our 130 hypercars we’ll concentrate on rebuilding our core sports car range. We will have a combustion-powered sports car to show you towards the end of next year, for sale after that. Beyond that car, every Lotus, in whatever segment, will have a full electric version."
There’s been a suggestion that in your journey towards electrification you might skip hybrids all together...
"That is certainly an option."
How much will you grow under the 10-year plan?
"Let’s start from the beginning. We made 1700 cars last year, but as it currently stands Hethel make over 5000 on a single shift. That means over 10,000 on a double shift — and I believe we’ll outgrow Hethel in its current guise. After all, we have an ambitious plan to move into new segments."
What will you do when you’ve outgrown Hethel?
"We can either do something radical at Hethel, or we can move somewhere else as well. But it’s important to say that making cars in different locations wouldn’t change the DNA of the company. We won’t build anything unless it’s a) profitable, and b) can be called a true Lotus. And we’d never made the same car in multiple locations."
Isn’t your 'For the driver' strap-line rather time-limited? Surely we’re moving closer to full autonomy?
"I don’t believe it will become time expired. Progress with other, much bigger manufacturers tends to focus on mobility and ownership models, which are leading to cars becoming commoditised. But a Lotus will always be a car to use and enjoy in your leisure time. But we’ll certainly harness some of the great technology of the future."
How do you believe Brexit is affecting Lotus?
"Our message to the government over the past three years hasn’t changed: we just need to get this deal done. And it now looks like that’s what will happen. Even if we exit without a deal, we believe other deals will be done; we have hundreds of years of history as a trading nation to help us through. Meanwhile at Lotus we’re taking short-term contingency steps. We’re planning for some disruption. But nothing about Brexit will change our core strategy."