Lotus launches its last ever petrol car, the Emira
Lotus unveiled its last ever petrol car on Tuesday, a milestone in the British sports car brand's journey towards becoming an all-electric and far bigger automaker by the end of the decade.
Lotus and its Chinese owner Geely want to transform a small company making some 1,500 sports cars a year into an electric powerhouse churning out tens of thousands of high-end saloons and sports-utility vehicles (SUVs) as well.
"We recognize we need to increase our revenues and the sports car segment is limited," Lotus Managing Director Matt Windle told Reuters. "So we're looking to offer a variety of Lotus products across the range, for different people in different stages of their lives."
The expansion plan is not unlike that of Volkswagen's sports car brand Porsche, which has significantly expanded since launching its Cayenne SUV in 2002. Porsche sold more than 90,000 Cayennes last year, by far its best seller with almost three times the sales of its most famous car, the 911.
The Lotus project is starting with the Emira, which it unveiled at its Hethel factory on an old air force base in eastern England, where it plans to make about 4,800 of the sports cars a year – with the capacity to produce more if demand is high.
The Emira, prices for which will start at around 60,000 pounds ($83,000), is the first new petrol Lotus model in more than a decade, but it will be the last powered by fossil fuels.
Lotus has designed it to look like a sibling of its Evija, an electric "hypercar" that will have a production run of just 130 vehicles – it's the 130th model in Lotus's 73-year history and will sell for two million pounds ($2.8 million) each.
Geely bought a 51 percent stake in Lotus in 2017, ending years of financial struggles for the company under various previous owners who forced it to shelve some new model launches.
Lotus is now part of a growing empire for the Chinese automaker, which owns Sweden's Volvo Cars and is the biggest shareholder in Germany's Daimler.