British sports car brand Lotus is on the cusp of another golden era… again.
It isn’t the first time the one-time Ferrari rival (both on and off the racetrack) has announced plans for a new range of sports cars to replace its aging Elise, Exige and Evora. The company has confirmed those three models will stop production by the end of 2021 and will be replaced by three new sports cars, starting with the already confirmed Type 131.
Unlike the recent high-profile failures (most notably former CEO Dany Bahr’s plans for five all-new models back in 2010 which produced no production models) this time it looks like it will succeed. That’s because Lotus is now owned by Chinese automotive giant Geely, which has invested more than $177 million into the company’s Hethel manufacturing facilities, as well as employing an extra 920 people since taking over in 2017. The first product of Lotus under Geely’s ownership is the upcoming Evija all-electric hypercar, which will act as a flagship to lead the brand into this new era.
“This year will be hugely significant for Lotus with new facilities coming on stream, a new sports car entering production and new levels of efficiency and quality that only a new car design and factory can deliver,” explained Lotus CEO, Phil Popham. “Despite the continuing global challenges, Lotus has emerged from 2020 strong and on track in the delivery of our Vision80 business plan.”
While the Evjia will be the flagship model, the new Type 131 will be the most important new offering for the company to get right. That’s because, unlike the limited run Evija, it will be a rival to the likes of Porsche 911 and Audi R8 as a prestige sports car.
It’s believed the Type 131 will be a petrol-powered, mid-engine sports car (but won’t resurrect the famous Esprit nameplate) that will utilise an all-new platform and specially-tuned engines.
Lotus teased two more new models with the announcement, and said it will have replacements for the Exige, Elise and Evora, but it’s unclear if the recently-confirmed joint-venture with Alpine is included in that group. Last week the Renault-owned brand that’s entering Formula 1 this year, said it has signed an agreement with Lotus to co-develop a new compact electric sports car that would replace the Alpine A110, while the Lotus version could act as a more-affordable alternative to the $3m Evija.
The Elise dates back to 1995 and was the car that helped salvage the brand’s reputation during its years under Proton ownership. The small, lightweight sports car took the brand back to its roots but quickly spawned the more powerful Exige and eventually Evora. During their time on sale the three models sold more than 55,000 units around the world.