So, what is in store for Lotus?
Obviously, one of the three new cars is going to be the eagerly-awaited new Esprit, whose timetable has been pushed back a bit as Lotus is still working out several details. It will be shown to the public in December 2009.
Calendar year 2008 should be an exciting one for the boys in Hethel, though. May will see the introduction of a new Lotus/Proton high-performance car and in December, the company will pull the wraps off of a new midrange machine. Lotus gives no details as to what markets will receive the new cars, saying only that all three of the upcoming vehicles will be sold through the Lotus dealer network and are intended to broaden the automaker's customer base. Hopefully, that means that one of the non-Esprit cars (in all likelihood, the Lotus/Proton) will be positioned beneath the Elise, creating a low-cost entry-level model.
That's pure speculation, of course -- mixed with a healthy dose of wishful thinking on my part. And even if that does come true, that doesn't mean we'd see it here. Still, a six-car Lotus lineup? A couple of years ago, people would have dismissed such a notion as crazy talk. Things sure do change in a hurry.
(Press release after the jump)
Solid 5 Year Plan Heralds 3 New Models
Group Lotus is set for a bright future with a greatly expanded and
extended car model programme and new opportunities for the engineering
business on a re-aligned basis.
Following a major review of the entire business and with the full
support of the Lotus Group International Limited (LGIL) holding company
board, Lotus intends to launch two additional new models over the next three
years. This is in addition to the new Esprit, which will top the range as
the company's future flagship sports car.
The two additional models will be a new mid-range Lotus set for
launch in December 2008 and a Lotus/Proton high-performance model, due in
May 2008. The flagship Esprit replacement, whose introduction has been
extended to incorporate more Lotus "DNA" and other enhancements to meet the
changing needs of the global marketplace, will be unveiled in December 2009.
The review also highlighted opportunities for growth in the
engineering consultancy business, including expansion in new markets, joint
ventures and strategic alliances.
Mike Kimberley, Chief Executive Officer, Group Lotus said: "We are
very pleased to have secured LGIL Board approval for a high-level five-year
strategic business plan - the first such approved plan that this company has
had in the last six years. We have some great opportunities ahead of us and
some already under way. It's a very bright future but we have to work hard
to bring all the opportunities to fruition."
The current Lotus model range includes the award-winning and
class-leading Elise and Exige with the recently-introduced Europa S. The
three new models, all to be sold through the Lotus dealer network, will
address new market segments and allow Lotus to extend its appeal to a wider
customer base. Development work on two of the three new models is already
ongoing and will increase significantly in future months.
Responding to a general economic downturn in certain key markets,
Lotus has recently reduced production of its iconic Elise and Exige models.
It also expects to 'right-size' its workforce to match capacity with global
demand and to minimise overheads.
Mike Kimberley concluded "Like many other carmakers we need to
tighten our belts in the short term. It is essential we respond fast to
market conditions while we drive forward this exciting long-term plan. Our
shareholder Proton has been and is very supportive of Group Lotus plc, with
strong backing for our realignment plans."