‘While the endless specials grated with some people, they all sold, and for a profit, too’
FINALLY, THE ANSWER TO A QUESTION THAT has cropped up at least twice a month here at evo since, oh, I don’t know, when we started back in 1998: who is going to buy Lotus?
We’ve speculated many a time within these pages about the company’s future, what it should build and who should take ownership. Some stories have resulted in strongly worded correspondences or lengthy telephone conversations. But as of 1 July, current owners DRB-HICOM will have sold a 51.1 per cent stake in the British car company to Geely, the Chinese owner of Volvo and the London Taxi Company. Not natural bedfellows, I grant you, but Volvo seems to be doing okay.
There was always a sense that DRB-HICOM didn’t really know what to do with the maker of the Elise and Exige. There’s no denying it supported Lotus through thick and thin (and Dany Bahar), but there appeared to be a distinct lack of strategy.
There has been, however, a sense of stability at Hethel over the last three years. Much of this I put down to current CEO Jean-marc Gales (there’s been no confirmation he will stay in his role). To many, he appears to have done little but launch endless limited-run Elises and Exiges and mothball half of the production facilities. But his strategy of reducing costs, eradicating waste and streamlining production has paid off with this sale. And while the endless specials grated with some, they all sold, and for a profit, too. Lotus also returned to the US under Gales’ stewardship.
What now? A new Elise in 2020 if Gales stays and continues with his strategy and vision, but beyond that? The Evora and Exige will need replacing, and I’m sure there are corners of the motoring world that want to see a new Esprit, but that may never happen.
For now, I’m just happy Lotus appears to have a future, one of investment and new models that will focus on the thrill of driving. And that’s got to be a good thing, hasn’t it?