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New models, new markets: Lotus plans major expansion in the 2020s

Ronan Glon

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Lotus was so quiet during the 2010s that some enthusiasts wonder if it still exists. It's alive, it's healthier than it's ever been in recent memory, and it's orchestrating a major expansion that will put it back in the spotlight.

Its renaissance starts with the Evija, an electric hypercar packing a 2,000-horsepower punch that Matt Windle, the company's engineering boss, called a trailblazer. Future models will all be influenced by this limited-edition coupe. Beyond that, the company is taking steps to overhaul its entire business, from the design language that characterizes its cars to the restaurant its employees eat at — seriously. Even the cafeteria is getting a makeover.

"We're building the brand, building the product range, building the dealer network, and building facilities. There's a huge investment program going on," Windle told Autoblog. "We need to shoot the arrow far enough ahead so that we don't get stuck in the day-to-day problems and instead keep an eye on what we need to do long-term," he added. The company's to-do list is long, and rebuilding a brand is difficult, but Lotus believes it can pull it off.

The executive team is betting on an array of new products to reach customers in markets Lotus has little or no presence in; the United States comes to mind. The ultimate goal is to increase the brand's annual volume.

Windle understandably couldn't shed light on the product plan, but unverified rumors point to a born-again Esprit powered by a 500-horsepower hybrid powertrain made up of a mid-mounted, Toyota-sourced V6 and electric components provided by sister company Volvo. Another one of the company's future models is an SUV —its first — allegedly built on Volvo bones and aimed at the Porsche Macan. We hear a new Elise is coming, too.

The engineer explained his team doesn't feel the least bit constrained by the decades-long heritage Lotus is built on, and it's ready to embrace new technologies as it moves forward. "Electrification has given us the ability to look at things differently," he explained, while clarifying the company's core values (aerodynamics, ride, handling, and lightweight construction) won't be overlooked as it expands. "We will stay true to them," he pledged.

"Light is right," the phrase famously coined by Lotus founder Colin Chapman, will live on, then. China-based Geely purchased a majority stake in Lotus in 2017 and it's helping turn it around. Its management wants to position the British firm as the group's sporting and luxury brand, so Windle's team has a vast parts bin to rummage through. As a trade-off, "Geely comes to us with questions about vehicle dynamics and other areas we can help in." Volvo's unprecedented expansion under Geely hints at the path Lotus could follow in the 2020s.

Enthusiasts will need to muster a little bit of patience to see the turn-around bear its first fruits. The good news is that whatever the company comes out with in the next few years will be offered in the United States.

"While the Elise is no longer available new in the American market, we have a very exciting product plan in the pipeline and everything on it will be globally available," Geoff Dowding, the company's executive sales director, told Autoblog. He added his team will expand the American dealer network, which currently consists of 41 stores.

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