Lotus considering GT, saloon, crossover and SUV projects

Lotus could build GTs, sports saloons, crossovers or SUVs in future, according to new boss Phil Popham – but only after it has re-established its credentials as a sports car firm.

Earlier this year, Lotus revealed plans for an electric hypercar, codenamed Type 130, as well as indicating it was preparing to launch a new sports car ahead of renewing the Elise, Exige and Evora.

The renewal of the sports car line is part of a five-year programme kick-started by Popham’s arrival following the company’s acquisition by Chinese giant Geely. However, Popham has also indicated the brand will expand outside its traditional models in time.

“There’s a lot of talk about an SUV, but we haven’t confirmed that,” said Popham, speaking at the FT Future of the Car Summit. “We are rebuilding the business around sports cars and that’s the priority but we do believe that once that is done, this brand has the DNA and heritage to go further.

“That could mean GTs, crossovers, SUVs, sporting saloons – or just about anything else. The plans are open and we’ll look at every potential area in a very detailed way, considering all areas.”

Lotus has long been assessing its SUV plans, with Autocar previously revealing that the firm’s previous management started a project that would use elements of the SPA structure used by Geely and Volvo.

Popham also outlined his view that electrification, connectivity and autonomy can be an opportunity for Lotus, despite its focus on driving dynamics.

“In terms of autonomy, I see our cars having the capability, and our owners using that in the city before hitting the ‘Lotus’ button on a country road or track and taking control – perhaps assisted by that same technology to reach the absolute limits,” he said.

“Electrification brings challenges and opportunities. In time, I don’t think people will notice the loss of the engine noise – for us, it’s about the car’s dynamics. Electric cars offer a low centre of gravity, because of where the batteries are placed, and the aerodynamics aren’t constrained by the mechanical parts.”

Describing Lotus as a “70-year-old start-up”, Popham highlighted that despite its current investment – estimated to be in excess of £1.5 billion – and recruitment drive, it remained agile compared with rivals. He declined to declare projects for sales to justify the investment, but conceded Geely had targeted a long-term strategy.

“Today we are a 1700 sales a year firm, and it’s clear we can’t be funded for the future by those sales,” he said. “We have to take a leap – we have to grow exponentially. Part of that will come from China, and Geely’s ownership can help with that, but we are looking to America and Europe with just as much focus.”