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Lotus is building electric sports cars in the UK with a £ 2.5 billion production spurt

Lotus has committed to building electric sports cars in the UK under a £ 2.5 billion plan that will increase production tenfold.

The brand expects sales of “tens of thousands” of cars a year by the middle of the decade, compared to just 1,378 last year as it revamped its entire range and promoted the new chief executive in sport utility vehicles and electric sports cars, Matt Windle told the Financial Times.

The company is already creating hundreds of jobs in the UK as it begins production of its latest model, the Lotus Emira, its last internal combustion engine sports car, which was unveiled on Tuesday, at the end of the year.

The group, majority-owned by China’s Geely, is three years into a ten-year plan to revive the historic but often financially precarious former racing brand.

In 2019, the final year for which accounts are available, Lotus lost £ 14.1m on sales of £ 96.3m while auto sales declined due to the aging product range.

Production at its main facility in Hethel, Norfolk, will roughly triple over the 10-year turnaround plan that runs through 2028, Windle said.

The brand will also open a new Chinese plant, the first outside of the UK to be dedicated to manufacturing electric SUVs.

Geely’s investment of approximately £ 2.5 billion has allowed the company to plan for new products and to plan for significant global expansion.

“This plan will take us into new segments and new parts of the market,” said Windle, who was promoted from technical director to general manager in January.

“When the lifestyle products and the new sports cars come out, we’ll be talking about tens of thousands of cars a year instead of thousands.”

He added, “The lifestyle cars will be made in China and the sports cars will stay in Hethel.”

The Lotus Emira and its derivatives will replace the company’s three current models, the Elise, Elan and Exige.

Lotus also provided details of spending on the Geely investment with two new vehicle architectures that can be used to make electric sports cars and electric SUVs rather than trying to develop battery cars from existing models.

The special architecture for electric sports cars is being developed in collaboration with Renault’s alpine sports car brand, which also deals with electric vehicles.

The system could see the two companies working together on parts or production, though Windle said there are currently no plans to manufacture Alpines in the UK or Lotus cars in France.

The other new production system is intended for “lifestyle” vehicles that combine the dynamics of a light sports car with high-speed cars. This leads him into the most dominant and profitable part of the automotive market.

It also becomes the newest performance brand for SUVs after Aston Martin, Porsche and Lamborghini launched their own models. Even Ferrari is planning an SUV, the Purosangue, to be released next year.

Windle expects the majority of Lotus sales to come from SUVs in a timely manner, which means most of the company’s manufacturing will take place at its new facility in Wuhan, China.

While auto purists have condemned the rise of SUVs with sports car badges, Windle said the vehicles would still feel like Lotus vehicles.

“It still has to be light and simple and a car that you want to drive.”

As soon as the Emira starts delivering next year and the new electric cars hit the market, production at Hethel will rise to over 5,000, he said.

The site is already offering 150 jobs later this year to support the start-up and ramp-up of manufacturing, as well as 125 jobs in nearby Norwich and a further 100 jobs in its battery research center near Warwick.

Windle added that the group has not yet reached an agreement on batteries for their electric sports cars, but they would have to be from the UK or Europe to qualify for duty-free access to the EU under UK trade terms and conditions.


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