Lotus is embarking on an ambitious recovery programme, which will see production treble in the next five years. Among the cars on the drawing board are an Esprit replacement, an all-new mid-size sports car and fresh versions of the Elise.
The first fruits of the firm’s renaissance are seen this week thanks to the release of pictures of the new second-generation Exige. It goes on sale in March for around £33,000 and is the first Lotus to be powered by a Toyota engine, the 190bhp 1.8-litre unit from the Celica T-Sport.
Two years ago Lotus lost £43 million and the company was forced to axe jobs and freeze new-car programmes. However, in an Autocar interview this week, deputy chairman Victor Kiam revealed the company is now making an operating profit to fund new models.
Kiam pledged to expand production from 2000 cars last year to 6000 in five years’ time, fuelled by a replacement for the Esprit. Although no longer on UK sale, the current Esprit continues in production for the US market. An all-new model is likely to retain the Esprit moniker, arriving in 2007 with a sales target of around 1000 a year.
Slotting between the Esprit and Elise will be a new mid-size car. The previous project, codenamed M250, was canned because it was not suitable for world sales, but this time the car will be developed with global appeal in mind. Expect it in 2008 with around 2000 sales a year.
Lotus plans to share technology across its range. So instead of physically sharing platforms, they will each use similar modules, wiring architecture and tooling to save costs. Expect new alloy and composite materials to feature, too.
Kiam said that Lotus’s problems had forced it to become smarter. It has cut the production time for an Elise down from 140 hours to 100 hours.