All future Lotus models will eventually use electrification, said Popham, but in exactly what format has yet to be decided. “The focus for now is on replacing the products we’ve got today – the sports cars,” he said. “In a long time, Lotus has not had sight of what is required. You need a longterm plan, a product plan and a business plan locked down with investment. We have that plan locked in.”
Lotus will also look to leverage the “huge opportunity” it has from being part of such a large and well-resourced group as Geely, said Popham. This includes “design, engineering and manufacturing opportunities” and the potential for shared architectures for future models beyond sports cars, as well as investigating the future of its engine deal with Toyota, which continues harmoniously for now.
On the finances involved with Geely, Popham said: “We’re not talking tens or hundreds of millions, but billions.”
On the wider role Geely can play, he said: “All conceptual work and product planning management will sit at Lotus, but we can and will sub-contract packages back into Geely.
They have lots of technology capabilities, a design studio in Coventry, engineers in Sweden, Germany and China. We employed 150 engineers last year and will employ more this year while also using the resource in Geely.”
Early development work has now started on the new sports car architecture, which may not necessarily retain its current bonded and extruded aluminium base if a better option is available. It will be developed to meet regulations in China and North America from the beginning.
The Norfolk-based company is already expanding its Hethel headquarters, with plans approved for a new customer experience centre and museum. Lotus sold 1630 cars last year, but Popham said the capacity was around 5000. Hethel will remain the home of Lotus sports cars with associated investments to improve the facilities. The manufacture of future models, such as SUVs, will take place elsewhere.
Beyond sports cars, Popham said Lotus could enter “a number” of segments so long as all of its models retained the brand’s core DNA. He cited Porsche as a good example of how to grow. “Our DNA of driving dynamics, performance and lack of weight mean different things in different segments, but we’ll be renowned for them in the segments we’re in,” he said.
Popham added that future sports car models must take less time to make and be cheaper and more repeatable to produce as “the hours of build are too high”, while too many parts are used and their cost is also “too high”. This is the result of having architectures that have stayed in production for so long and a reason for Lotus’s inconsistent quality.