Geely's design boss says the sports car firm's first planned SUV will appeal to new buyers

The forthcoming Lotus SUV is set to position the Norfolk-based sports car brand as a more luxury car maker than previously - and could be the first in a series of crossover machines from the firm.

The project was one of the first signed off by Chinese company Geely afer it bought the British firm last year. As previously revealed by Autocar, the machine will use Volvo underpinnings, with Lotus boss Jean-Marc Gales promising "class-leading handling".

Speaking at the Beijing motor show, Peter Horbury, Geely's design boss, said: “The question is where Lotus can be positioned in the market, where it is today and where the competition might be. China is a huge market for more luxury, more expensive cars, so that’s a possibility.

“SUVs were never on the agenda at Porsche until someone dared to suggest to the board it might be a good idea. Where would they be today if they hadn’t?"

Lotus SUV to use Volvo underpinnings and have class-leading handling

Horbury, who has previously headed up design at Ford and Volvo, was coy on details on the upcoming SUV but said: "It’s never going to be as light as an Evora. But I’m sure if you’re calling it a Lotus, it has to be the lightest it can be of that genre.”

He also hinted that there is more than one SUV coming from Lotus: “We’ve already mentioned SUVs are coming and we need a lot of resources in a fairly swift amount of time." 

Beijing motor show 2018 - full coverage

That resource is coming from a new Coventry-based Geely design centre, of which new Lotus models, including the SUVs, will be a focus. 

All Lotus design remains under the remit of Lotus chief designer Russell Carr, who reports to Horbury. While Carr remains focused on sports cars at Lotus’ home in Hethel, Norfolk, the Coventry studio will facilitate the brand’s forthcoming SUVs.

“It’s an ambitious plan [for Lotus]," Horbury explained. "Russell is stretched doing the sports cars he is creating with his team in Hethel and so this new design centre allows Lotus to use Geely resources.”

While a facility in Coventry was already on the cards before Geely acquired Lotus, Horbury said the purchase cemented that decision. “I could have expanded Gothenburg or Shanghai studios. When Lotus came along, I thought it was wise to maintain the creative work of Lotus in England. If we couldn’t expand Hethel with enough people to do all the projects, we’d better stay in England within reasonable distance.”

He added that Coventry has a lot of automotive expertise, not only in design but also in model-making and tool-making. The city is also the base for Geely-owned London Electric Vehicle Company, which makes the new TX taxi

Lotus design is good at differentiating from rivals, according to Horbury: “We’ve looked at the design signatures of Lotus and I think they’re very good at keeping Lotus separated from other brands. Simple things like the visor look of the windows is terrific. We might want to say that’s got to be there. 

“We’re looking hard at what Lotus can be. There’s a good track record at Geely for letting brands develop. Volvo is a great example.

“The ambitions for Lotus are greater than before Geely came along. There is the possibility of building a whole group of vehicles which carry the Lotus name into areas that Lotus hasn’t been before.”

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Comments
9

25 April 2018

Repugnant.

25 April 2018

If building an SUV means that Lotus gains a solid financial position from which to build new sportscars, I'm happy.

25 April 2018
Scoobman wrote:

If building an SUV means that Lotus gains a solid financial position from which to build new sportscars, I'm happy.

I know this is the way companies make their money nowadays, but this repeated release of SUV after SUV is just so tedious. I wish people wanted to buy something different.

25 April 2018

It's an Autocar rendering not an official image. I'm glad the Chinese are preserving Volvo and Lotus, far better than the treatment Saab got from General Motors.


26 April 2018
Leslie Brook wrote:

It's an Autocar rendering not an official image. I'm glad the Chinese are preserving Volvo and Lotus, far better than the treatment Saab got from General Motors.

That's certainly an interesting rendering of Vermeer's work...

26 April 2018

Just waiting for Morgan and TVR to announce they’re developing SUV’s. This should give them a solid financial position to develop more sports cars.

26 April 2018

Could Caterham follow? Another case to build a solid financial position?

26 April 2018

I hope Lotus can differentiate their product more from the XC60/XC90 than Bentley and Lambo have done from the Q7/Touran/Cayenne sisters

28 April 2018

The SUV has been on the cards in one form or another for over a decade. Geely are giving Lotus R&D resources to actually produce them (plural)... I'm sure much like their German counterparts they will produce the halo sports cars to validate the Lotus name, whilst staying commercially viable. Moving out of Hethel with design and production would have caused an absolute uproar a few years ago... The times are changing.

I wish them well... John Mansfield

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