Lotus Is Gearing Up to Build a Car You Can Drive Every Day

(Bloomberg) -- Lotus Cars, known for low-slung racers that wedge drivers into a tightly honed cockpit, is working on a new, entry-level model that will provide enough interior space for every-day use.

The as-yet unnamed car, destined to be the company’s last combustion-engine model, will be priced between 55,000 pounds ($67,000) and 100,000 pounds, Chief Executive Officer Phil Popham said in an interview. It’ll take design cues from the all-electric Evija hypercar that the U.K. firm bills as the world’s most powerful auto.

The barbell-like pairing of the $2 million Evija with the more modestly priced basic auto defines Lotus’s strategy under Chinese owner Geely Group. Like other performance carmakers, it’s seeking to ramp up volumes by providing more accessible choices that will appeal to regular drivers, while offering wealthy aficionados a chance to spend big on highly profitable limited-edition dream cars.

But unlike rivals such as Aston Martin and Lamborghini that have opted for sport-utility vehicles, Lotus will first produce an accessible sports car -- though one with enough interior space to be compatible with every-day use. That’s a departure from models like the wedge-shaped Esprit, driven underwater by film spy James Bond, that have typically been trotted out only at weekends or on the track.

Lotus Is Gearing Up to Build a Car You Can Drive Every Day

Production will restart next month at Lotus’s plant in Hethel, England, as soon as the U.K. lifts its coronavirus lockdown, Popham said. A factory extension is being built to house the new model, which will be unveiled late this year or early in 2021.

Lotus plans to lift volumes from around 1,600 cars a year toward the 5,000-unit limit of its facilities, said Popham, who added that with Geely’s clout, the plans won’t be held back by any hit to sales from the coronavirus.

“It’s not as if we have to generate all the money ourselves to invest in our future,” the CEO said, suggesting that future options could include an SUV, crossover, cruiser or sporting saloon. “Our focus now is on sports cars but we do think the brand has the potential to move into other segments. And Geely has expertize in areas such as electrification and autonomous driving.”

Lotus has been consulting with its owner on resuming production once the U.K. lockdown lifts -- possibly as early as May 11, Popham said -- in light of the Chinese group’s own experience. Geely’s early input meant it invested 400,000 pounds in work-from-home preparation and has managed to keep half its 1,400 staff working.

The Evija will enter assembly before the year’s end, according to the CEO. Only 130 of the autos are due to be built, and deposits have been taken on all production due in the second half, he said. Sales have slowed following the lockdown, with U.S. and European promotional tours curtailed.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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