Lotus Planning to Build New SUV and Sedan
It’s been four years since Lotus introduced a brand-new model, but the financially troubled automaker could soon bounce back with a couple of new vehicles besides the Elise R that was spotted testing at the Nurburgring in August 2014. According to Malaysian outlet Utusan, the British sports car manufacturer is aiming to save itself from bankruptcy by entering two previously unexplored markets. Specifically, Lotus is planning to develop an SUV and a D-segment sedan (midsize for the U.S. market).
The new plan was devised Jean-Marc Gales, who took over as Lotus CEO in May 2014, and presented at a Board of Directors meeting chaired by Proton executives in Malaysia. Gales, who has previously worked for Citroen, Daimler, GM and Volkswagen, has been appointed to implement a new brand strategy at Lotus, which suffered a $283 million net loss in 2013, when global sales dropped by 40 percent.
Still hoping to sell more than 4,000 vehicles a year, a plan that went down the drain given last year’s disastrous results, Lotus wants a piece of the ever-growing SUV market and a powerful sedan that would appeal to Asian, and especially Chinese customers.
Click past the jump to learn more about the Lotus’ new vehicle plan
Existing Ideas on Clean Sheets of Paper
Although it is mostly known for its lightweight sports cars and Formula One program, Lotus is no stranger to sedans. In the early 1990s, Lotus offered a beefed-up version of the Opel Omega sedan powered by a 3.6-liter, inline-six engine tweaked to generate 377 horsepower and 419 pound-feet of torque. Fitted with a Corvette ZR-1 transmission and a limited-slip differential borrowed from the Holden Commodore, the Lotus Carlton needed only 5.2 seconds to sprint from 0 to 60 mph, making it the fastest production four-door sedan of its era. In 2010, Lotus unveiled the Eterne, a sleek, hybrid-powered super sedan with 620 horsepower under its bonnet. The vehicle never made it into production, but it might return to the company’s drawing board under the Gales administration.
Lotus is no stranger to SUVs either. The idea to produce a sports utility vehicle surfaced nearly 10 years ago, and the Brits showcased the APX concept at the 2006 Geneva Motor Show. Details are slim as of this writing, but Utusan says Gales’ plan for a new SUV includes a brand-new design that has nothing to do with the APX.
Why It Matters
In order to save Lotus, Gales needs a few brilliant ideas and he needs them fast. On paper, Gales didn’t take too long to implement a new strategy, but it’s crucial for these new products to be transferred from the drawing board to the streets over the next two to three years. Seeing a Lotus-badged SUV might disappoint most purists, including me, but it’s a scenario that might just save the iconic brand from going extinct. It worked for Porsche, it could work for Lotus as well.
Introduced at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, the Lotus Eterne is a four-door sports sedan powered by a hybrid drivetrain that delivers a total output of 620 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque. The powertrain combines a 5.0-liter V-8, a hybrid gearbox with integrated electric motors, and a KERS system. Lotus promised the combo will propel the Eterne from 0 to 60 mph in only four seconds and up to a top speed of 195 mph.
Initially scheduled to arrive in showrooms in early 2015, the Eterne project was dropped due to the financial difficulties that affected the company since the beginning of the decade.