Lotus boss: ‘if you want sportscars, we need to make money’
As Lotus finally reveals its 600bhp Eletre SUV, Matt Windle tells TG about the future
“We want to be a proper global, serious player,” Lotus boss Matt Windle recently told TopGear.com. “When it’s fully on stream, we’re hoping numbers in the tens of thousands.”
The ‘it’ is the shiny new Eletre SUV; the company’s inevitable foray into the world of big, fast electric motoring. The ‘numbers’ bit? How many cars Lotus hopes to sell in the future.
Tens of thousands.
For reference, Lotus sold 1,710 cars last year, which sounds like the number of cars BMW shifted in the last five minutes. For Hethel, this represented nearly a quarter more cars than it sold in 2020, and the most it’s sold since 2011.
Worth mentioning that as of now, in 2022, Lotus doesn’t sell the cars that gave it such a sales bump because last year we waved goodbye to the Elise (the biggest seller in ‘Final Edition’ guise), Exige and Evora.
Lotus then, is throwing everything behind its new set of Es – the Evija, Emira and this Eletre. It’s the latest plan in a series of plans that, over the decades, haven’t quite delivered. Windle’s hoping this time, once and for all, it’ll be different. “We’re ramping up production of the Emira so both sportscars and lifestyle cars will be big for us,” he said.
Only natural for that word to trigger a reaction when in context of one of the most celebrated sportscar makers on Earth, but Lotus needs to make it stick this time. “If you want Lotus sportscars to be around forever, we’ve got to make money,” he told TG. “And we haven’t been making money in the past, and that’s why we haven’t been able to invest in product.
“Type 135 we’ve already talked about, which is the [electric] sportscar that will come from us next,” he added. “I’ve seen it, it’s amazing. If selling these cars [the Eletre] helps us get on that journey, I think’s it’s a really important thing.”
Just ask Porsche or Lamborghini how important. In 2017, a year before the Urus was launched, Lambo shifted 3,815 cars. Last year, with Urus ‘fully on stream’, Sant’Agata sold 8,405 cars. No surprises for guessing where the bulk of those sales came from.
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The arrival of a two-tonne-plus electric Lotus SUV built primarily for China is already a big step, but Windle is aware he needs to make another one. “Quality. Quality, and investment in quality,” he said. “We’ve got to have products at the right quality, but also products that’ll still appeal to people. Every time I talk to China, it’s ‘quality, quality, quality’. That’s what we’re driving.”
While everyone loved those now ‘old’ Lotus sportscars, Windle’s aware things had to change. “It was sad to see those cars go because they served us well, but I talked about the quality; we had to completely change the factory. They were hand-built cars, pushed around by people on trollies. Now we’ve got AGVs to take cars around the factory, and we’ve got semi-automated assemblies.”
The company’s spent almost £100 million on its facilities including two new production halls, paint shops and a fabrication facility. The workforce has doubled over the last five years, too.
“We’re building an environment at Lotus that’s built on delivery,” Windle said. “We’re not going after hundreds and hundreds of thousands of cars a year, so it’s modest production figures. But it’s a big step. I realise it’s a big step for people that know Lotus. The important thing for us is to bring new customers in so they understand Lotus. That will then filter down to the sportscars,” he added.
And what about those sportscars? “They’ll always be there. The sportscars are the heart of the brand.”