2020 Lotus SUV
The idea of a Lotus crossover might make some fans of the British sports carmaker a little squeamish, but if Lotus is going to stick around, it’s going to need a higher-volume model with more mass-market appeal. Lotus revealed that it’s developing a compact crossover in 2017, but we still don’t know much about its underpinnings and design. However, a batch of patent images that surfaced the Web provided some hints as to what the British crossover will look like, and our designer created a rendering of the vehicle.
So what do we actually know about this crossover so far? First, it will be built in China and launched exclusively in that market before expanding to Europe and Japan. No word on U.S. availability just yet, but it’s very likely that North America will get it too. Second, Lotus aims to win SUV enthusiasts with one of the lightest and most dynamic vehicles on the market. "The SUV market changes as well – it’s not just cars that are six feet high and wide now, it’s a huge market that’s becoming more segmented. There is a niche within that for a Lotus crossover that is light and aerodynamic and handles like nothing else," former Lotus CEO, Jean-Marc Gales told Autocar in October 2017. Lotus began testing the crossover in 2019, but the prototype is just an old Lynk & Co 01 model. As a reminder, Lynk & Co is owned by Geely, the same Chinese company that owns Lotus (and Volvo for that matter).
Updated 06/24/2019: Our spy photographers caught the very first mules for the upcoming Lotus SUV out for the first testing session.
Lotus Is Making the Sweet Eye on Bringing its SUV into The Luxury Market
Lotus’ planned SUV is taking shape ahead of its scheduled debut in 2022. But, before things are said and done, the British automaker is reportedly keen on positioning its SUV as a luxury model, pushing it into the segment occupied by other premium SUVs like the Porsche Cayenne, Jaguar F-Pace, and Maserati Levante. More importantly, it might not be the only SUV to wear the Lotus badge.
Now that Lotus is Free to Expand, Will an SUV be in the Works?
Now that beleaguered sports car brand Lotus is in the safe and stable arms of new parent firm Geely, there’s a lot of optimism and excitement surrounding the British automaker. One potential model that could finally materialize in the coming years is a Lotus SUV, which technically has been in the pipeline for well over a decade now. Not it appears close to reality as it’s ever been, and we could have Geely to thank for it.
To be clear, neither Lotus nor Geely have specifically identified an SUV as a future Lotus model. But Carl-Peter Forster, Geely board member and chairman of Geely-owned London taxi maker LEVC, hinted to Automotive News at the Frankfurt Motor Show about the possibility of seeing a Lotus SUV in the future. The main goal of Geely at this point is to look at possible avenues by which it can expand Lotus without diluting the brand’s status as a maker of lightweight sports cars. One way to do that is to build an SUV, something that Lotus has been keen on building since it introduced the APX CUV all the way back at the 2006 Geneva Motor Show. Nothing came out of those plans because Lotus didn’t have the money to build one, but with Geely now providing financial support, the possibilities are now open for Lotus to literally, in Forster’s own words, produce "any size of car and any number of cars.” Whether this pans out or not is another matter entirely. But consider a Lotus SUV as a viable possibility now, something that wouldn’t have happened had Geely not stepped in to buy the company.
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Lotus Production Facility Expected To Begin Construction Later This Year
Lotus’ plan to build an SUV isn’t exactly a tightly kept secret these days. In fact, Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales has repeatedly alluded to the company’s plans to have an SUV serve as its mass-market model to complement the range of sports cars it has in its portfolio. The latest news on this front comes by way of Bernama, Malaysia’s national news agency, which is reporting that Lotus’ new production facility is expected to begin construction by the end of 2016, essentially putting into motion the automaker’s long-term plan of launching the yet-to-be-named SUV by 2019.
The plant, which will be co-developed by Proton, Group Lotus and Goldstar Heavy Industrial, will be located in Guangzhou, China and will reportedly cost as much as $1.5 billion. Among other things, the site will eventually include a headquarters, presumably to be used by Lotus, as well as production facilities and a research and development center. Guangzhou Development and Reform Commission Deputy Director Wang Ke Si old Bernama that the site itself is still under development and will need the approval of “ministries, National Development and Reform Commission and other related commissions.”
It’s been said that Lotus is targeting China as the primary market for its SUV, although Gales also mentioned in the past that the model will hit other key markets all over the world, including the U.S. A design for the SUV is still currently being worked on and from past statements, Lotus is keen on coming up with a design that doesn’t exist in the automotive world yet.
For now, the primary objective is to begin construction of the production facility that will eventually be the production home of the SUV. All signs seem to point to the automaker receiving all the necessary approvals within the year, giving all relevant parties enough time to begin the construction of the facility by the end of 2016.
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Lotus is making moves to offer its first-ever SUV to the Chinese market by 2019. If the Chinese release is a success, Lotus will consider bringing it to other markets, including North America and Europe. However, the process could take up to five years, which would put the 2018 Lotus SUV on our shores around 2024.
That’s the word coming from Lotus’ CEO Jean-Marc Gales, who broke the news in an interview with Auto Express.
“The first market will be China but we haven’t yet decided if it will be sold anywhere else. But obviously if the car is a success there – and I strongly believe it will – we will go outside of China,” Gales told the U.K. publication.
In the interview, Gales reconfirmed that the new SUV will be lighter and faster than the competition. He also called out Stuttgart, saying, “The nearest rival will be the Porsche Macan – but ours will be better.”
Earlier this year, Lotus’ owner, the Malaysian company DRB-Hicom, signed a joint-venture agreement with Chinese manufacturing company Goldstar Heavy Industrial to help push the new SUV forward. The Chinese government has yet to grant the licenses required to begin production.
So far, there’s no word on what platform the SUV will utilize, but in a previous interview with Car And Driver, Gales said Lotus might source something from its parent company, Proton.
On the engine side of things, Gales said he would like to continue Lotus’ partnership with Toyota, which puts gasoline and possibly hybrid power on the table. But in order to be sold in Europe, Gales said the SUV would need to be offered with a diesel powerplant. Given Toyota is now focused on developing tech like hydrogen fuel cells, Lotus might need to source its diesel options from another automaker.
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With Dany Bahar no longer at the helm of troubled sports car specialist Lotus, you would think that the brand’s foray into making more mainstream vehicles would have ended. Unfortunately, the situation may be far from it, if Group Lotus’s new chief Jean-Marc Gales is to be believed. Speaking with Reuters at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, Gales admitted that Lotus may need to also jump on the crossover/SUV bandwagon if it plans to survive the upcoming years.
While the news is likely upsetting, to say the least, to die-hard Lotus fans, Gales promises that Lotus will not just do another plain crossover but "reinvent the category," quickly explaining himself: "We’d do an SUV that is very light, very fast on the track and has outstanding handling," he told the news agency. "I’m a bit torn between an SUV and a four-door sports car - but in the end I can see that the SUV has the bigger market."
On the plus side, despite what the quote may suggest, Jean-Marc Gales is actually an old-school car guy who seems to understand the Lotus philosophy better than his predecessor. "We had an electronically opening glove box, which in a sports car is worse than useless. I don’t know who put that in, but I took it out." he said at Geneva. In my book, this is a perfect example of his Colin Chapman-like mindset, so hopefully the crossover Lotus will adhere to the "simplify, then add lightness" principle as well, as that would indeed revolutionize the niche.
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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