Future Lotus models are set to be produced in China, as owner Geely is developing a $1.3 billion (£1.01 billion) factory with a capacity of 150,000 vehicles a year.
According to a Reuters report, the facility in Wuhan would provide an opportunity for the Norfolk-based sports car manufacturer to build SUVs as part of its expansion under Geely ownership. The bulk of production at the new site would be taken up by Geely models, however.
Lotus stated: “Lotus Cars is undergoing an exciting resurgence with the backing of Geely, and expanding the brand's manufacturing footprint globally is a key part of the company's strategy.”
As reported by Autocar last year, Geely is planning a £1.5 billion investment in Lotus, with the aim of diversifying its line-up.
A Porsche Cayenne-rivalling SUV model due in 2020 will begin a planned model expansion for Lotus beyond sports cars, in line with Geely’s commitment to “restoring Lotus into being a leading global luxury brand”.
A limited-run, £2 million electric hypercar is set to be revealed later this year in concept form, with development well under way at Lotus's Hethel facility.
The opening of the Chinese factory is not thought to threaten UK jobs. As part of Geely’s plan, Lotus SUVs are set to be built in China while production of sports models, such as the Elise and Exige, will remain at Hethel.
A company spokesperson said: “Lotus and our shareholders are fully committed to manufacturing at Hethel for Lotus sports cars and expanding our HQ here in Norfolk with investment in the site... and recruitment of staff.”
Geely is keen to leverage Lotus’ history, with company boss Li Shufu stating that he sees “no reason to move fifty years of combined experience to China; let them do what they do best in Britain”.