Times are tough at famed-but-troubled British sports car manufacturer Lotus. Maybe tougher than they've ever been, and for Lotus, that's saying something. Nobody knows this better than new CEO Jean-Marc Gales. He has to move the brand forward, but maybe not in a way the purists will like.
Gales just gave a big interview to the UK's Auto Express in which he outlines some of Lotus' plans in the coming years. It's a mix of good and... interesting. Maybe bad, depending on your perspective.
First, Gales says the brand needs a return to the values of Colin Chapman, "'light is right', 'agility', 'pure driving,'" as he puts it. He admits Lotus has lost those values a bit lately and future cars have to be consistent with that strategy. I'm certainly glad to hear him recognize that.
Next, he says that Lotus' immediate future is centered around the Exige, Elise and Evora, and derivatives of those cars. (Which makes sense because right now, that's all they've got.)
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But beyond 2017 or so, he says the company is thinking about expanding its range, but "you won't see a two-tonne animal somewhere wearing a Lotus badge."
That doesn't mean there won't be a Lotus crossover, but Gales promises they'd do it right:
Without going into detail because this is still three or four years ahead, but we believe we can combine Lotus brand values with many possible segments and crossovers as you say. Nothing has been decided, but saloons and crossovers are certainly two segments that come to mind, I would say SUV/crossover definitely. If Lotus does an SUV or a four-door saloon it will be light, performance-led and it will have outstanding looks. This is what we want and this is in line with our heritage.
Okay. That's definitely going to be upsetting to the Lotus die-hards. Hell, it's hard for me to even imagine such a large passenger vehicle wearing a Lotus badge.
But maybe we should be optimistic here. Maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they can pull it off properly. Gales doesn't seem to be the kind of guy who will slap a Lotus badge on some boat and call it a day.
Furthermore, as Porsche figured out a long time ago, you gotta pay the bills, and it's very hard to do that by exclusively making sports cars. Say what you want about the Cayenne and Macan, but they're among the most engaging vehicles in their segments and more importantly, they sell crazy well and make a ton of money for Porsche. Maybe a Lotus crossover, if they do it — and that still seems to be a big if — can do the same.
One more big takeaway from the interview was this. If you were hoping Gales would revive his predecessor Dany Bahar's 2010 plan for five new sports cars, including the Lotus Esprit concept pictured above, you can stop hoping now. That plan is dead in the water.
Are there any plans to revive the Esprit project, reportedly the closest to completion when Bahar left, or salvage any of the technology? If you're asking whether we're going to pick them up and launch these cars, the answer is no. I don't want to focus on the past, but there are some technologies and supplier relationships that we can take forward from the projects.
It's a bit of a shame, as none of those cars were bad looking. I'm just not sure how true they were to the Lotus brand. Then again, neither is a crossover, right?