Lotus is poised to build new vehicles in China following the formation of a new joint-venture company by its owner, Proton, and Goldstar Heavy Industrial.
The development strengthens the likelihood of a Lotus-badged SUV, as exclusively reported by Autocar last September, as well as bolstering its sports car sales.
According to a statement from Lotus, "the collaboration seeks to accelerate the development of Lotus cars in the premium sports segment in China".
Lotus already exports its Hethel-built sportscars to China, and chief executive Jean-Marc Gales has pinpointed the country as a key growth market for exports. Last year it sold 80 cars in China from a global total of 2015 vehicles.
Dato’ Abdul Harith Abdullah, chief executive officer of Proton, said: “The agreement will see the establishment of a new joint-venture company for the purpose of undertaking research and development activities in the use of efficient and advanced technology.
"The joint-venture company will then produce and sell Lotus-branded passenger cars as well as provide aftersales services in connection with its products in the People’s Republic of China".
That suggests the vehicles produced as part of the joint-venture could have a different identity to the iconic sportscars, raising the possibility of more mainstream cars such as the SUV and even a saloon.
“The automotive market in China is the single largest in the world today, and is still growing, therefore it is only natural for an established iconic company like Lotus to embark upon the possibility of expansion, venture into the market and seek the available opportunities, in light of the keen interest shown by the many enquiries received thus far," added Dato’ Abdul Harith Abdullah.
"It is very difficult to ignore the market and Lotus will fill the gap in providing a lifestyle alternative to the growing demands of the affluent and market conscious local community."
The joint-venture company, which will build cars, engines and components, will establish itself in Quanzhou, the largest city in the Fujian province on China's East coast.
The joint-venture between Proton and Goldstar is in fact a revival of a previous link-up between the two companies to build Proton-badged cars. That allegiance ended ignominiously when Proton terminated the contract and instead joined forces with Youngman.