Lotus Cars is a British automotive company that manufactures sports cars and racing cars in its headquarters in Hethel, United Kingdom. Lotus cars include the Esprit, Elan, Europa, Elise, Exige and Evora sports cars and it had motor racing success with Team Lotus in Formula One. Lotus Cars are based at the former site of RAF Hethel, a World War II airfield in Norfolk. The company designs and builds race and production automobiles of light weight and fine handling characteristics. It also owns the engineering consultancy firm Lotus Engineering, which has facilities in the United Kingdom, United States, China, and Malaysia.
Lotus was previously owned by DRB-HICOM through its subsidiary Proton, which acquired it following the bankruptcy of former owner Romano Artioli in 1996.
On 24 May 2017, Geely announced that it will take a 51% controlling stake in Lotus and thus became the owner of the automobile manufacturer. The remaining 49% were acquired by Etika Automotive.
The company was formed as Lotus Engineering Ltd. by engineers Colin Chapman and Colin Dare, both graduates of University College, London, in 1952, but had earlier origins in 1948 when Chapman built his first racing car in a garage. The four letters in the middle of the logo stand for the initials of company founder, Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman. When the logo was created, Colin Chapman's original partners Michael and Nigel Allen were led to believe that the letters stood for Colin Chapman and the Allen Brothers.[clarification needed]
The first factory was situated in old stables behind the Railway Hotel in Hornsey, North London. Team Lotus, which was split off from Lotus Engineering in 1954, was active and competitive in Formula One racing from 1958 to 1994. The Lotus Group of Companies was formed in 1959. This was made up of Lotus Cars Limited and Lotus Components Limited, which focused on road cars and customer competition car production, respectively. Lotus Components Limited became Lotus Racing Limited in 1971 but the newly renamed entity ceased operation in the same year.
The company moved to a purpose built factory at Cheshunt in 1959 and since 1966 the company has occupied a modern factory and road test facility at Hethel, near Wymondham. This site is the former RAF Hethel base and the test track uses sections of the old runway.
In its early days, Lotus sold cars aimed at privateer racers and trialists. Its early road cars could be bought as kits, in order to save on purchase tax. The kit car era ended in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Lotus Elan Plus Two being the first Lotus road car not to be offered in kit form, and the Lotus Eclat and Lotus Elite of the mid-1970s being offered only in factory built versions.
After the elegant but delicate Lotus Elite of the 1950s, which featured a complete fibreglass monocoque fitted with built-in steel pickup points for mounting major components, Lotus found critical and sales success in the 1960s with the Lotus Elan two seater later developed to two plus two form. Lotus was notable for its use of fibreglass bodies, backbone chassis, and overhead camshaft engines, initially supplied by Coventry Climax but later replaced by Lotus-Ford units (Ford block, Lotus head and twin cam valve gear). Lotus worked with Ford on the Lotus Cortina, a successful sports saloon.
Another Lotus of the late 1960s and early 1970s was the two seater Lotus Europa, initially intended only for the European market, which paired a backbone chassis and lightweight body with a mid mounted Renault engine, later upgraded to the Lotus-Ford twin cam unit as used in the Elan.
The Lotus Seven, originating in the 1950s as a simple, lightweight open two seater continued in production into the early 70s. Lotus then sold the rights to produce the Seven to Caterham, which has continued to produce the car since then.
By the mid-1970s, Lotus sought to move upmarket with the launch of the Elite and Eclat models, four seaters aimed at prosperous buyers, with features such as optional air conditioning and optional automatic transmissions. The mid engined line continued with the Lotus Esprit, which was to prove one of the company's longest lived and most iconic models. Lotus developed its own series of four cylinder DOHC engines, the Lotus 900 series, and later a V8, and turbocharged versions of the engines appeared in the Esprit.
By 1980, Group Lotus was in serious financial trouble. Production had dropped from 1,200 units per year to a mere 383. The combined reasons were that the world was in the middle of an economic recession, sales in the key United States market had virtually collapsed and there had been limited development of the then model range.
In early 1982, Chapman came to an agreement with Toyota to exchange intellectual property and applied expertise. This initially resulted in Lotus Engineering helping to develop the Mk2 Toyota Supra, also known as the Toyota Celica XX. Secondly, it allowed Lotus to launch the new Lotus Excel to replace the ageing Lotus Eclat. Using drivetrain and other components from Toyota enabled Lotus to sell the Excel for £1,109 less than the outgoing Eclat.
Looking to re-enter the North American market, Chapman was approached by young law professor and investment banking consultant, Joe Bianco, who proposed a new and separate United States sales company for Lotus. By creating an unprecedented tax-incentived mechanism wherein each investor received a specially personalised Lotus Turbo Esprit, the new American company, Lotus Performance Cars Inc. (LPCI), was able to provide fresh capital to the Group Lotus in the United Kingdom. Former Ferrari North America general manager John Spiech was brought in to run LPCI, which imported the remarkable Giugiaro-designed Turbo Esprit for the first time. US sales began to quickly jump into triple digits annually.
Chapman died of a heart attack on 16 December 1982 at the age of 54, having begun life an innkeeper's son and ended a multi-millionaire industrialist in post-war Britain. At the time of his death, the car maker had built thousands of successful racing and road cars and won the Formula OneWorld Championship seven times.
At the time of his death, both Chapman and Lotus were linked with the DeLorean Motor Company scandal over the use of UK Government subsidies for the production of the DMC DeLorean, for which Lotus had designed the chassis. Chasing large sums of money which had disappeared from the DeLorean company, Lotus was besieged by Inland Revenue inspectors, who imposed an £84 million legal "protective assessment" on the company. Chapman died before the full deceit unravelled but, at the subsequent trial of Fred Bushell, the Lotus accountant, the judge insisted that had Chapman himself been in the dock, he would have received a sentence "of at least 10 years".
Despite having employed designer Peter Stevens to revamp the range and design two new concept cars, by 1985 the British investors recognised that they lacked the required capital to invest in the required new model development to production, and sought to find a major motor manufacturing buyer. In January 1986, Wickins oversaw the majority sale of the Group Lotus companies and 100% of North American–based LPCI to General Motors, with engineer Bob Eaton a big Lotus car fan. After four months of controlling but co-owning Group Lotus with Toyota, the Japanese company sold out to GM. By October 1986, GM had acquired a 91% stake in Group Lotus for £22.7 million, which allowed them to legally force the company buyout.
Presently organised as Group Lotus plc, the business is divided into Lotus Cars and Lotus Engineering.
As well as sports car manufacture, the company also acts as an engineering consultancy, providing engineering development—particularly of suspension—for other car manufacturers. Lotus's powertrain department is responsible for the design and development of the 4-cylinder Ecotec engine found in many of GM's Vauxhall, Opel, Saab, Chevrolet and Saturn cars. The US Lotus Elise and Exige models used the 1.8L VVTL-i I4 from Toyota's late Celica GT-S and the Matrix XRS both of which are no longer available new. The new Exige has the same V6 engine as its bigger counterpart the Evora and is not available in the US as a road-legal vehicle.
Michael Kimberley, who had been a guiding light at Lotus in the 1970s, returned and took over as the Acting chief executive officer of the Company and its Group from May 2006. He chaired the Executive Committee of Lotus Group International Limited ("LGIL") established in February 2006, with Syed Zainal Abidin (managing director of Proton Holdings Berhad) and Badrul Feisal (non-executive director of Proton Holdings Berhad). LGIL is the holding company of Lotus Group Plc.
Kimberley retired as CEO on 17 July 2009, replaced on 1 October 2009 by the former Senior Vice-President for Commercial & Brand at Ferrari, Dany Bahar. Bahar intended to drive the brand up-market into the expanding global luxury goods sector, effectively away from the company's traditional light weight and pure driving experience simplicity.
Bahar was suspended as CEO on 25 May 2012 on a temporary basis, while an investigation into his conduct was undertaken. Lotus announced on 7 June 2012 the termination of Bahar's employment and the appointment of Aslam Farikullah as the new chief operating officer. The ambitious plans for several new models were subsequently cancelled following Bahar's departure. Jean Marc Gales replaced Bahar as the CEO of the company in 2014 and enabled the company to make a profit after decades in 2017 due to his effective market plans and strategies, before he left the company in June 2018 due to personal reasons and was replaced by Feng Qingfeng from Lotus Group's parent company, Geely.
October 2018 saw further senior changes as Phil Popham was named CEO of Lotus Cars with Feng Qingfeng remaining in charge of Group Lotus.
In its early days, the company encouraged its customers to race its cars, and it first entered Formula One through its sister company Team Lotus in 1958. A Lotus Formula One car driven by Stirling Moss won the marque's first Grand Prix in 1960 at Monaco. Moss drove a Lotus 18 entered by privateer Rob Walker. Major success came in 1963 with the Lotus 25, which – with Jim Clark driving – won Team Lotus its first F1 World Constructors Championship. Clark's untimely death – he crashed a Formula TwoLotus 48 in April 1968 after his rear tyre failed in a turn in Hockenheim – was a severe blow to the team and to Formula One. He was the dominant driver in the dominant car and remains an inseparable part of Lotus's early years. That year's championship was won by Clark's teammate, Graham Hill.
Team Lotus is credited with making the mid-engined layout popular for IndyCars, developing the first monocoque Formula One chassis, and the integration of the engine and transaxle as chassis components. Team Lotus was also among the pioneers in Formula One in adding wings and shaping the undersurface of the car to create downforce, as well as the first to move radiators to the sides of the car to aid in aerodynamic performance and inventing active suspension.
Even after Chapman's death, until the late 1980s, Team Lotus continued to be a major player in Formula One. Ayrton Senna drove for the team from 1985 to 1987, winning twice in each year and achieving 17 pole positions. By the company's last Formula One race in 1994, the cars were no longer competitive. Team Lotus constructed cars won a total of 79 Grand Prix races. During his lifetime Chapman saw Lotus beat Ferrari as the first Marque to achieve 50 Grand Prix victories, despite Ferrari having won their first nine years sooner.
Team Lotus established Classic Team Lotus in 1992, as the Works historic motorsport activity. Classic Team Lotus continues to maintain Lotus F1 cars and run them in the FIA Historic Formula One Championship and it preserves the Team Lotus archive and Works Collection of cars, under the management of Colin Chapman's son, Clive.
Team Lotus's participation in Formula One ended at the end of the 1994 season. Former racing driver David Hunt (brother of F1 world champion James Hunt) purchased the name 'Team Lotus' and licensed it to the Formula One team Pacific Racing, which was rebranded Pacific Team Lotus. The Pacific Team folded at the end of the 1995 season.
The Lotus name returned to Formula One for the 2010 season, when a new Malaysian team called Lotus Racing was awarded an entry. The new team used the Lotus name under licence from Group Lotus and was unrelated to the original Team Lotus. In September 2010 Group Lotus, with agreement from its parent company Proton, terminated the licence for future seasons as a result of what it called "flagrant and persistent breaches of the licence by the team". Lotus Racing then announced that it had acquired Team Lotus Ventures Ltd, the company led by David Hunt, and with it full ownership of the rights to the "Team Lotus" brand and heritage. The team confirmed that it would be known as Team Lotus from 2011 onwards.
In December 2010 Group Lotus announced the creation of Lotus Renault GP, the successor to the Renault F1 team. This team contested the 2011 season having purchased a title sponsorship deal with the team, with the option to buy shares in the future. The team's car for that season, the R31, was badged as a Renault, while Team Lotus's car, the T128, was badged as a Lotus. In May 2011, the British High Court of Justice ruled that Team Lotus could continue to use the "Team Lotus" name, but Group Lotus had sole right to use the "Lotus" name on its own. As a consequence, for 2012 Lotus Renault GP was rebranded as Lotus F1 Team and its cars were badged as Lotuses, while Team Lotus was renamed Caterham F1 Team (after the sports car manufacturer owned by team principal Tony Fernandes) and its cars were badged as Caterhams.
After fielding underpowered and uncompetitive engines in the 2012 Indianapolis 500, in which drivers Jean Alesi and Simona de Silvestro were black-flagged after ten laps for failing to maintain a competitive pace, Lotus was released from its contract and did not participate in future seasons.
Lotus Elise: The Elise was launched in 1996 and weighed 725 kg (1,598 lb). The current range of Elise's starts at 866 kg (1,909 lb) and incorporates some engineering innovations, such as an aluminium extrusion frame and a composite body shell. The Elise has spawned several racing variants, including a limited series called the 340R, which has an open-body design echoing the old Seven. The Elise was introduced into the US, with a Toyota engine, to pass strict US emissions laws. The 1ZZ & 2ZZ Toyota engines used to have a Lotus ECU with their own fuel mapping. The supercharged Lotus Elise S (which replaced the SC model) and limited edition Jim Clark Type 25 Elise editions add a new performance dimension to the Elise range. 0–60 mph acceleration is in 4.3 seconds and 0–100 km/h in 4.6 seconds. The Elise spawned into its third generation in 2012 where it saw more power being added and more newer variants such as the Elise Cup 250 being introduced.
Lotus Exige: The coupé version of the Elise which is in production since 2000. Currently the Exige has a variety of variants ranging from the 375 PS (276 kW; 370 hp) Sport 350 to the 430 PS (316 kW; 424 hp) Cup 430. All variants of the Exige feature the SuperchargedToyota DOHC V6 from the Lotus Evora.
Lotus Evora: The Lotus Evora was unveiled on 22 July 2008. It was code named Project Eagle during development. The Evora is 2+2 sports car with a mid-mounted, transverse 3.5-litre V6 engine. Lotus unveiled a more powerful variant of the Evora called the Evora S in 2011 which Lotus provided as Rapid Response Vehicles to the Rome and Milan Carabinieri to replace the previous Lamborghini Gallardos. See Lotus webpage A facelifted and more powerful Evora 400 model was unveiled at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show after Lotus discontinued the standard Evora and the Evora S. The Evora 400 was followed up by the Evora Sport 410 which was unveiled at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show. Another powerful variant called the Evora GT430 was unveiled in September 2017.
At the 2010 Paris Motorshow, Lotus announced five new models to be introduced over the next five years: Their intention was to replace the Elise with an entirely different model, as well as to introduce two entirely new sports coupes, which would have been known as the Elite and the Elan, a new sports saloon, the Eterne, to rival the Aston Martin Rapide and Maserati Quattroporte, and a modern interpretation of the Esprit supercar.
It became apparent in July 2012 that the firm's financial difficulties had made this plan impossible to implement, and initially all but the Esprit project were cancelled. Subsequently, the Esprit project was also cancelled.
Lotus also showed an unnamed city car concept using its 1.2L range-extender engine.
In 2011, Lotus revealed this as the Lotus Ethos, a plug-in hybrid car based on the EMAS concept from its parent company Proton, and likely to be primarily built by Proton in Malaysia. This car has also been cancelled.
Lotus CEO at the time Jean Marc Gales confirmed in 2017 that development of an SUV is currently under way, after the company was acquired by the Chinese automotive manufacturer, Geely.
Range Extender Engine. This all-aluminium, monoblock, 1200 cc, three-cylinder, 47 horsepower, four-stroke engine is specifically designed to directly drive an alternator for electricity generation for series-hybrid cars. The engine is small and light at 56 kg (123 lb), having three cylinders and no detachable cylinder head. The cylinder head and engine block are all one casting to reduce size, weight and production costs. As the engine does not turn belt driven ancillaries such as alternator, power-steering pump or an air conditioning compressor, the block requires no strong points to accommodate such ancillaries, resulting in a simple and light block. The engine has a reduced parts count for lightness and cheaper production.
On 18 August 2011 Lotus developed an all new in-house designed V8 destined for the new era range of cars. At 170 kg (375 lb) and just 612 mm (24.1 in) long, the unit is dry sump lubricated to save depth and will feature a 180° flat plane crank. The engine is being utilised as a stressed component, a technique pioneered by Colin Chapman in F1, specifically with the 1967 Type 49. It was expected to be used in the Le Mans LMP2 car in 2012. Expected performance is likely to be in excess of 590 PS (434 kW; 582 hp) and with a 9,200 rpm redline.
Lotus Engineering Limited is an offshoot of Lotus Cars, which provides engineering consultancy to third party companies primarily in the automotive industry. As well as Hethel in the United Kingdom Lotus has engineering centres in Ann Arbor, USA, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Shanghai, China. In 2000, Lotus Engineering, Inc. was established with an office in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Lotus Eco Elise is an engineering demonstrator of its classic sports car that incorporates solar panels into a roof made from hemp, while also employing natural materials in the body and interior of the car.
Lotus Exige 265E Bio-fuel
Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel
Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid. Shown at the 2010 Geneva Motor show
Whereas the VVA technology will be used in the creation of a new mid-engined sportscar for Lotus cars, the APX is, in fact, a high-performance 7-seat MPV with four-wheel drive and a front-mounted V6 engine from Lotus Engineering's Powertrain division. The engine was designed and developed to be available as a 2.2-litre N/A and 3.0-litre supercharged. A number of prototypes of both engines exist in full working order in a number of mule cars.
Versatile Vehicle Architecture (VVA) is an effort by the Lotus car manufacturing company to reduce the investment needed for producing unique, niche-market cars by sharing a number of common components.
DMC DeLorean. Changes to the original concept led to considerable schedule pressures. The car was deemed to require almost complete re-engineering, which was turned over to engineer Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus. Lotus replaced most of the unproven material and manufacturing techniques with those then employed by Lotus in the Lotus Esprit
Vauxhall Lotus Carlton (also Opel Lotus Omega, internal name Lotus Type 104) – At the time (early 1990s) this was the fastest saloon car available, with a top speed of over 175 mph (280 km/h)
The 1991 Dodge Spirit R/T with a version of the 2.2 L K-car engine with a 16-valve DOHC head designed by Lotus with over 220 hp (160 kW)
Vauxhall VX220 (badged Opel Speedster outside of the UK) – Lotus produced and based upon the same aluminium chassis design as the Lotus Elise. Production of these models ended in 2005
Lotus styled and assisted with the engineering of the Tesla Roadster (2008), an electric sports car based on the Elise, as well as licensing some technologies to Tesla Motors and constructing the Roadster at their plant in Hethel
Lotus was responsible for the development of the Campro engine together with Proton, as well as its variable valve timing system, the Cam Profile Switching (CPS). Currently available in the 1.6-litre and 1.3-litre variants, the Campro engine now powers most of Proton's newer models
Lotus has worked on the suspension of the Mahindra Scorpio to make it more stable at high speeds
Lotus rebuilt, modified, and tuned a Lada Riva on Top Gear season 1, episode 8. 1 of 1 ever made
The 2006 Volkswagen GX3 features a chassis developed by Lotus for VW
The 2009 Kia Soul features Lotus tuned suspension (UK only)
2010: Limo-Green project with Jaguar Cars. Lotus provided the Range Extender engine for a prototype XJ series-hybrid car. The car returned 58 mpg (imperial) running off the range extender alone
2010 Jaguar C-X75, Lotus are partner with Jaguar for developing chassis system and engine management. Powering the engine is a supercharged 1.6 turbo petrol engine with 500bhp. With 175 bhp electric motor, power output of 313bhp/litre compare to Bugatti Veyron of 125bhp/litre
The 2015 Hyundai Genesis, Lotus has worked on handling and steering.
2015 Spyker B6 Venator is powered by a Lotus-built engine originating from a Toyota-sourced block.
Tesla Motors, a likely rival for Lotus if its plans go through, has also turned to contractors for parts of the all-electric Roadster. However, Tesla bought the chassis for their 2,500 Roadsters from Lotus because of the heavy weight of the batteries in an EV and Lotus's widely known low weight and sharp handling characteristics. While only 10% of the parts of the Tesla Roadster were shared with the Lotus Elise, Lotus was responsible for approximately 40% of the overall content of the car.
Queen's Award for Enterprise
Lotus Cars were awarded the Queen's Award for Enterprise for contribution to International Trade, one of 85 companies receiving the recognition in that category in 2002. Lotus cars wore the badge of the award for a number of years.
In the popular 1960s TV series The Avengers, the female lead characters drove Lotuses. Emma Peel had two Lotus Elan convertibles, a white S2 and a metallic blue S3 while her successor Tara King drove a red Elan +2 and a red Europa.
^The rights to the Seven were sold in 1973 to Caterham Cars. Updated versions of this 1957 design are also produced by other speciality firms, including Westfield Sportscars and Donkervoort. Originally the number seven was applied to a Riley-powered Formula 2 car, but the vehicle was never completed in its original form, finally emerging instead as the Clairmonte Special, a two-seat sports car powered by a Lea-Francis engine.
^A mid-engined sports car, launched in the early 1970s. It was styled by Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. The Esprit started with a light, 4-cylinder design, which went through several iterations of turbo-charging and electronic upgrades, before finally being replaced by a highly advanced V8. The last Lotus Esprit rolled off the production line on 20 February 2004, after 28 years in production. A total of 10,675 Esprits were built since production began in 1976.
^GT inspired two-seater claimed to offer a more upmarket sportscar experience, although it is based on the same chassis as the Elise and Exige, limiting accommodation and practicality. Power comes from a Lotus-tuned variant of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine which powers the VX220. The Europa has been criticised in the motoring press for being expensive and for lacking equipment and practicality compared to rivals like the Porsche Cayman.