The Elan could be reborn, joining a range of old favourites being reintroduced through Lotus's new growth strategy
Richard Bremner Autocar
4 November 2019

Lotus is considering reintroducing the Elan name on a new drop-top sports car, as well as other models in a back catalogue that includes the Elite, the Europa and the Esprit.

The Elan name is said by sources at the Hethel-based firm to have a strong possibility of being revived in the next few years. Few of the details are known at this stage but insiders are said to be “very excited” by the proposed configuration of this car, which is expected to be positioned above the Elise as a two-seat convertible with more refinement, space and creature comforts to take on the Porsche Boxster. Despite this, the new car should stick to the classic Lotus traits of being lighter than rivals and among the best in its class to drive.

The company is developing an all-new, rivet-bonded platform to replace its two existing structures – with the Elise/Exige architecture dating back to 1995, and the Evora to 2008. The all-new platform, which is around two years away, will provide the basis for a new sports car range including the Elan.

The proposed new model would be the third-generation Elan; the first highly regarded version of this sports car series was introduced in 1962. The platform family on which it’s broadly based is the central plank of a new product cycle plan that’s part of Lotus’s 10-year ‘Vision 80’ strategy.

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Before these newcomers, Lotus will launch the last variation on the current Evora platform, a new sports model. It will appear late next year as a very driver-focused package but it will also be significantly easier to get in and out of than current models and have much improved ergonomics. Alongside this, CEO Phil Popham has expressed a need to overhaul the brand’s rather limited connectivity technology, so we could see new Lotuses ditching the usual aftermarket stereo systems for a bespoke infotainment set-up.

Planning a decade ahead is a given for most car makers but a strategic rarity for Lotus. It has been enabled by the Vision 80 investment programme led by Popham. In the past, the company has typically had the resources to develop only one car at a time. Now it can realise a complete product plan.

The scale of this investment has been estimated at around £1.5 billion by Bloomberg, although this figure is said to be “very conservative” by a Lotus spokesman. That sum should be enough to pay for the new architecture, whose structural concept will be similar to the current platform.

Lotus will retain the rivet-bonded alloy core concept, which, insiders say, provides excellent overall stiffness and allows plenty of scope to increase local rigidity for different models. These qualities will be essential if the high-grade driving dynamics promised by the company’s ‘for the driver’ brand ambition are to be achieved.

The rivet-bonded approach also suits Lotus’s sales goals. Although the firm is aiming to increase sales sixfold – from last year’s 1630 cars to around 10,000 by 2029 – this vehicle construction method reportedly remains the best solution for Lotus’s relatively low volumes.

The rivet-bonded and composite structure is also light – essential to the Lotus mission – and its detail design will benefit from the brand’s 25 years of production experience with this technology.

As before, a mix of materials will be used, probably across a wider palette that includes carbonfibre and several metals. A key ambition will be to reduce the time required to build each car, say insiders. That will be achieved by reducing the time it takes to bond each structure and also by cutting the number of hours required to assemble a car, the corollary of which should be improved quality.

Containing costs will be aided by the use of ‘keep zones’, the term Lotus engineers use to describe the three-dimensional slices of architecture that will be shared among all cars using this new platform. One example is the position of the front wheel relative to the driver’s seat, a high-investment zone of the platform that it makes sense to retain across all versions. But the ‘keep zones’ strategy doesn’t preclude tailoring the wheelbase and track to suit the needs of different models, insiders say.

As for the new model being introduced late next year, this will be the last new variant to be developed on the current Evora platform and much effort has been expended on ergonomics. That includes not only the driving position and forward visibility but also the ease of getting into and out of the car, a drawback of the current models that has limited sales.

Given the wide variety of cars to be derived from the all-new platform – from track-only models via an Elan to the Evora and Esprit supercar, which is also understood to bea long-term goal for Lotus – the scope for a variety of dynamic and functional levels will need to be built in. The company has reportedly done a lot of work assessing competitor cars to define these goals at the outset for each new model.

The targets also include the cars’ electrical functionality. Insiders have reported that membership of the Geely Group is giving Lotus affordable access to everything from infotainment systems and electronic dampers to electric power steering technology. The last of these will be essential for providing the advanced driver assistance systems mandated by law in some markets, but there will also be models, probably track-focused ones, with unassisted steering.

Regulations and a shifting market will also demand that alternative powertrains be developed and these are said to be under evaluation. But, as Lotus found when developing the Tesla Roadster from the Elise, packaging large numbers of battery cells can affect both the platform’s design and the car’s dynamic behaviour, which Lotus will hope to limit in part by harnessing tech from Geely.

The recent announcement of a Geely combustion engine and hybrid development centre, created by combining the Volvo and Geely internal combustion development departments, would provide a source of expertise.

A further sign of the more substantial resources behind Lotus is the plan to develop all models for worldwide homologation from the start, as well as building in the scope to cater for the customer requirements of markets such as China and the US. The long-mooted SUV will be key to these markets. It is tipped to become Lotus’s ‘cash cow’ in the same way the volume-selling Cayenne and Macan have become for Porsche. “Today, Porsche is our benchmark,” Group Lotus CEO Feng Qingfeng told Autocar earlier this year.

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Comments
17

4 November 2019

Dany Bahar was out of his mind right? A new Esprit, how dare he?!!

4 November 2019

when they were hardly selling any cars, no outside investment, loosing money quickly, unhappy and demotivated engineers fleeing the company... yeah, bahar's suicide plan made total sense! what's happening now isn't at all comparable as, for a start, it's actually achievable 

4 November 2019
russ13b wrote:

when they were hardly selling any cars, no outside investment, loosing money quickly, unhappy and demotivated engineers fleeing the company... yeah, bahar's suicide plan made total sense! what's happening now isn't at all comparable as, for a start, it's actually achievable 

You're talking absolute rubbish. The previous owners, no matter who was heading Lotus, didn't want to invest a cent into Lotus.

Bahar actually had a working Esprit V8 prototype working.

4 November 2019
manicm wrote:

You're talking absolute rubbish. The previous owners, no matter who was heading Lotus, didn't want to invest a cent into Lotus.

Bahar actually had a working Esprit V8 prototype working.

A working protype is one thing, getting it into production is another Bahar failed.

When Geely took over Volvo everyone feared the worst, they envisioned Volvo producing cheap chinese runabouts, just like MG, the complete opposite happened and they just gave them money, support and a fairly free hand to get on with things, Volvo have never been in better shape, the same will happen at Lotus, but Lotus, now have the availability to cherry pick the Geely part bin for engines, safety tech, infotainment systems, and EV knowledge, and enough money to develop their own systems via Lotus Engineering, something they have never had before, GM offered Lotus very little worth having and Proton had nothing good enough. 

 

4 November 2019
Citytiger wrote:

manicm wrote:

You're talking absolute rubbish. The previous owners, no matter who was heading Lotus, didn't want to invest a cent into Lotus.

Bahar actually had a working Esprit V8 prototype working.

A working protype is one thing, getting it into production is another Bahar failed.

When Geely took over Volvo everyone feared the worst, they envisioned Volvo producing cheap chinese runabouts, just like MG, the complete opposite happened and they just gave them money, support and a fairly free hand to get on with things, Volvo have never been in better shape, the same will happen at Lotus, but Lotus, now have the availability to cherry pick the Geely part bin for engines, safety tech, infotainment systems, and EV knowledge, and enough money to develop their own systems via Lotus Engineering, something they have never had before, GM offered Lotus very little worth having and Proton had nothing good enough. 

 

I recall Autocar fearing the worst for Volvo when Geely took them over, even insinuating it was a bad move for Volvo.

5 November 2019
russ13b wrote:

when they were hardly selling any cars, no outside investment, loosing money quickly, unhappy and demotivated engineers fleeing the company... yeah, bahar's suicide plan made total sense! what's happening now isn't at all comparable as, for a start, it's actually achievable 

 

Someone is rewriting history here. Bahar received a significant investment from Proton that got switched off when DHB purchased Proton. Don't fall fowl for the complete Bahar angst that got propogated by Autocar. Autocar was predicting the doom of Telsa just 12-months ago, now look they're recording record profits. Bahars plan was equally achievable to todays - remember he surrounded himself with some of the biggest hitters in the industry to develop the plan. You can't say they were all idiots. 

JM Gales took Lotus closest to brink with his penny pinching, lack of vision and inability to pitch beer in a pub. 

The car game needs big balls. Dany showed what Lotus was truly capable of and because he broke the mould, the traditionalists came out against him. Those same people (Autocar) have done the same to Elon Musk and they're now either red faced or in denial.

4 November 2019

A new sports car in the mould of a new Elan, to complement their track-focussed models, is exactly what Lotus needs to breathe new life in to the company. While Lotus is aiming high with its hypercar, bread and butter models are crucial to Lotus' survival so they need to have a new higher volume, mainstream car to compete either against the likes of the MX-5/GT86 or sports cars like the Boxster/A610/Supra/Z4 etc but its essential they feel like a thoroughly engineered, quality product and is a genuine everyday car too with as few compromises as possible. This is the route Porsche took with the first Boxster around 20 years ago and the rest, as they say, is history. After profits and sales rise, only then should Lotus consider bringing in a new Esprit, whether this is a super sports car like a 911/570S/Vantage or a supercar to go head to head with F8/720S/Huracan etc.

4 November 2019

At a time when many major brands are cutting back on their sports models, because of declining sales, Lotus is planning to expand its model range. Do they know something other brands don't?

4 November 2019
Overdrive wrote:

At a time when many major brands are cutting back on their sports models, because of declining sales, Lotus is planning to expand its model range. Do they know something other brands don't?

All of their current cars are over 10 years old. Can you rehash and release a new 'limited edition' model every week indefinitely???

Please!

4 November 2019
manicm wrote:

Overdrive wrote:

At a time when many major brands are cutting back on their sports models, because of declining sales, Lotus is planning to expand its model range. Do they know something other brands don't?

All of their current cars are over 10 years old. Can you rehash and release a new 'limited edition' model every week indefinitely???

Please!

IPlease what? I wasn't talking about 'replacement' of current models, but ''expansion' of the range with all new models. 

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