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Lotus boss: new Elise, Evora roadster and SUV coming
TG chats to Jean-Marc Gales about future models, success in America, and more
“We launched Evora 400 in August in the US. It’s now October, we have 300 orders, and have sold out production until March 2017”.
Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales is maintaining his trademark understatement and businesslike, matter-of-fact tone. But there’s the slightest note of satisfied joy in his voice. Lotus is on the up.Ex-Mercedes sales boss and Peugeot-Citroen president Gales took over at Lotus in 2013. Status: dire, after the infamous five-car Dany Bahar-led plan nosedived.
Strategy? Revitalise and broaden the current family of cars, make an operational profit by 2016, and generate enough cash to launch fresh products in 2020. Top of the list: an SUV, and – at last – an all-new Elise. Alternatively, Lotus would flounder and possibly disappear for good.
Three years later, Gales has delivered on his word. We’ve had faster, lighter Sport versions of Elise, Exige and Evora, and not a moment too soon, federalised US sales of the Evora 400.
“We are delivering 50 cars a month in the US”, Jean-Marc confirms proudly. “We’ve been cash-flow positive since August , and we are now turning an operational profit.” He allows himself a brief grin. “With this money, we can afford our future product developments.”
How’s the mooted SUV coming along? “We are making progress”, says Gales candidly. “There will be a prototype running by the end of this year, but I can’t tell you much more than that.”
And no, he’s not worried about a taller, family-pitched Lotus cheesing off the hardcore fans. He’s got plans for them too. “I’m thinking about doing a successor to the 3-Eleven already – a 4-Eleven”, teases Gales. “It might be a bit less raw this time.”
Is he still frustrated by the lack of an Evora Roadster? “Yes! But that is coming. You need to give us 20-22 months for Evora Roadster”, he says precisely, when he could have rounded it up to two years.
And a new Elise? “That is coming in 2020. It will be all-new, with the same philosophy as today’s Elise. New, but still recognisable from 200 metres as a Lotus.”
Gales namechecks Porsche repeatedly, saying “forgive me for being specific with the names – Porsche is our biggest competitor pool”. Apparently several American Evora customers have defected from 911s, complaining the latest models “lack a directness, a sensitivity through the steering”.
Gales puts this down to Lotus’s perseverance with hydraulic power steering – “EPAS only saves you, what, a few grams of CO2…which we can cut by making our cars lighter”.
Meanwhile, the er, lukewarm reaction to droney four-cylinder engines in the Boxster and Cayman must be good news for Lotus? Jean-Marc allows himself another smile. “We have no problems with noise! I think our cars are the antithesis to tinny four-cylinder soundtracks.”