Iconic carmaker Lotus has announced the creation of 300 new jobs as it plans to design and build the next generation of sportscars in Norfolk.
The company has laid out its 10-year vision under the new ownership of Chinese car giant Geely, which includes increasing production more than five-fold, the design and launch of a new four-door SUV, and a commitment to Hethel, its home for more than half a century.
As widely reported, chief executive Jean-Marc Gales said the company had emerged from the most important year in its history in 2017, during which it completed a return to profitability, and now stood ready to build the future.
Gales said: “Last year we announced the turnaround, and that’s now done. We’ve cracked the operational model and now need to build the future. At the right time, the right company has bought us – we couldn’t have chosen a better investor.”
As reported, the 750 staff at the Potash Lane site in Hethel were briefed on the plans last week; already 40 posts have been filled, with a target of 100 new recruits by the end of March and the remainder to be employed this year.
Gales explained that the two new sportscars, the names of which have not been confirmed, and the recruitment drive represented a substantial investment” from Geely.
Gales added: “Both cars will be benchmark sportscars in their respective segments, that show again what Lotus is famous for: its handling, light weight and aerodynamics. Everybody wants to do that nowadays – everybody wants to be strong in something we’ve been strong in since the beginning.
“We are going to build these two cars until 2024-25, so that gives stability to the 300 new families and to the people who are already here.”
Lotus broke £100m mark
Gales said Lotus had been profitable in the calendar year 2017 and its unaudited figures showed revenue had broken the £100m mark, up from an unaudited £81.5m the year before.
The two sportscars will be developed over the next two years, with a hybrid-power crossover vehicle, described as lower, wider and lighter than a traditional SUV, being worked on ahead of a possible launch in 2021.
After selling 1,600 cars in the last calendar year, the two new models are expected to push Lotus’s annual sales back beyond 2,000 by 2021, but the four-door vehicle is being developed with the growing American and Chinese markets in mind.
With a proposed manufacturing base in China and another in Europe – its location is yet to be decided – there are hopes that the SUV could eventually take Lotus production beyond 10,000 vehicles a year.
Gales said: “This will help us get into five-digit numbers for Lotus, so a real success story. The biggest market in the world for this car is China by a large margin, so there will be one manufacturing site in China but there will also be one in Europe, preferably in the UK.
“That will transform the company into a multi-billion-pound company. That’s the plan.”
Gales underlined that a multi-million-pound investment would also be made to modernise the production line, automating some of the heaviest tasks, while construction of a major building begun under previous owners will be completed, and the cars would remain handmade.
Geely to help unleash Lotus’ potential
Chinese automotive heavyweight Geely took a majority stake in Lotus in May 2017, vowing to “unleash the full potential” of the brand. It already owns Volvo and the former London Taxi Company, now the London Electric Vehicle Company.
Gales explained that the link-up with Geely was already allowing Lotus access to a wider range of technology and systems, updating some components “to the technology of the 2020s”.
He added said: “We can access the expertise of 60,000 people around the world. They have bought Lotus because they want us to develop into something much bigger.”