Lotus wants to return to its “Bond car” glory days of the 1970s and 1980s and take on Porsche with a plan to relaunch its brand and triple its production of luxury sports cars within five years.
The legendary but perennially lossmaking niche British carmaker on Thursday unveiled five planned models and said its owner, Malaysian carmaker Proton, had secured £500m ($786m) to £800m to back a 10-year turnround plan.
“We will create a new premium British sports car manufacturer,” Dany Bahar, the group’s chief executive, told the Financial Times at the Paris motor show, where the carmaker announced the “dawn of a new era” for Lotus.
“It’s a big remake – it’s not just about new cars, it’s about repositioning the brand, it’s about repositioning the company,” Mr Bahar said. “It’s a relaunch of the Lotus brand”.
However, Lotus will face a tough fight against the likes of Porsche, owned by industry titan Volkswagen of Germany, and Britain’s McLaren, which recently announced a plan to become a full-fledged road car manufacturer akin to Ferrari of Italy.
With the five new cars, Mr Bahar said the company aimed to fill all the sports car segments, with prices more comparable to Porsche’s than Ferrari’s. A new version of the Elise will sell for about £35,000 and the brand’s planned top-end model, the Elite, will sell for £120,000 to £130,000.
As part of the expansion, the carmaker, which is based in Hethel, near Norwich, will expand its global staff from about 1,650 to about 2,500.
Mr Bahar said that Lotus had approached Britain’s Department for Business about loans or guarantees worth £40m to finance the expansion.
The department confirmed that it had been talking to Lotus, but said it was still awaiting more details of the carmaker’s plans.
Lotus is a revered name among car fans, with its string of wins in Formula One and Le Mans in decades past. Its former Esprit model featured in the James Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only.
However, the group – with just two cars in its range, the Elise and the Evora – has lost money for the past 13 years and gone through four chief executives, staying afloat only thanks to profits from its Lotus Engineering consulting arm.
Lotus sells about 2,500 cars a year, not including the electric roadsters it assembles on contract for Tesla Motors, the US electric carmaker, based on its own Elise. With five models in its range, it would reach production of 6,000 to 8,000 cars by 2015.