It has been 11 years since Dany Bahar pulled six covers off of six different Lotus concept cars at the Paris Auto Show, Ethos, Eterne, Esprit, Elan, Elise, and Elite. Not a single one of them ever came to pass, and Lotus soldiered on like Paris 2010 never happened once Dany, um, left the company. On Tuesday, Lotus made the ambitious announcement that it was developing four new electric vehicles — two SUVs, a sport sedan, and a sub-Evija sports car — all to be built in a new Wuhan, China facility. [Update, Thursday September 2nd, 7:45 AM ET: According to a Lotus representative, the electric sports car, scheduled for 2026, will be built in Hethel. Only the SUVs and sedan will be Wuhan-built.]
It’s hard not to make the connection to Dany Bahar’s wild vision of Lotus back in 2010, but there’s one major key difference between that and the Lotus of today. The Lotus of today actually has money. Where it was once struggling under the ownership of tiny Malaysian automaker Proton, it has been since sold off to China’s Geely, which has a mouth that is writing big ole checks, and an ass that can totally cash them.
Lotus has explained that the two SUVs and the sedan will all ride on the same new “Lotus Premium” modular platform, which can be stretched in wheelbase from 114 to 122 inches and hold batteries of capacities up to 120 kWh. Lotus claims this new platform is compatible with 800-volt high-speed charging, and each of these vehicles can be optioned to run a sub-three-second 0-60 time. It’s pretty easy to guess that Lotus is aiming squarely at Porsche here, with the larger of the two SUVs aimed at the Cayenne Coupe, and the smaller going toe-to-toe with the upcoming Macan EV.
The new Lotus plant scheduled to open in Wuhan later this year is a massive facility in comparison to the company’s current structures in Hethel. The new plant is capable of stretching to build up to 150,000 cars per year, which is more cars than Lotus has ever sold in its entire history, which began back in 1948. Obviously Geely wants to grow the Lotus brand in annual vehicle sales to match its historically significant nameplate. Cashing in the chips that 70 years of historic motorsport victories have earned for Lotus in order to sell SUVs and sedans isn’t the worst idea. It worked for Porsche 15 years ago.
Alongside the plant will be a new Lotus Technology headquarters, scheduled to open in 2024 and look like the rendering above. The facility broke ground in August, and is intended to push the company’s electric understanding forward. The center will be used to develop batteries, energy management systems, electric motors, control units, and more. China is going all-in on electric, so it makes sense that Lotus would want to be in the mix, where all the action is.
The Brits in Hethel will still be responsible for building the company’s low-volume sports cars like the Evija electric hypercar, the upcoming Emira, and presumably the currently-nameless ‘Type 136' electric sports car announced today. Very little else is known about the future of the Lotus brand, but it sure looks like it’ll be electric and ‘Made In China’.