Monday, June 12, 2017

Lotus Has Been Saved By An Unlikely Samaritan

Alexander Carabitses 

Late last month, news emerged that Chinese automaker, Geely, had purchased a fifty-percent stake in the Malaysian car company, Proton. Why should we care and why am I reporting on this?  Well, Proton owns all of Lotus, which includes the struggling car company and Lotus Engineering, a company that undoubtedly has the know-how to make a golf cart handle like a Porsche 918.  Due to the Proton deal, Geely owns all of Lotus, which is exciting news, for reasons that I am about to explain.
(Image created to Lotus)

Before I give my reasoning for why we should be excited, I feel that it is important for me to discuss Geely and its impact on the automotive industry as we know it.  The company was formed by the Chinese billionaire, Li Shufu in 1986, with the parent company producing lackluster cars for the Chinese domestic market ever since.  It never fell under our radar until the company purchased Volvo in 2010.  Under Geely's ownership, all of Volvo's latest hits, including the all-new XC90, S90, and XC60 have taken shape, with more to come in the not-too-distant future. In addition to Volvo, Geely also owns the upcoming car subscription service, Lynk & Co, and the London Taxi Company.  In other words, Geely has positioned itself to compete on a global scale, without actually having to bring the Geely brand to overseas markets that are difficult to break into, such as the US and Europe.
(Image credited to Lynk & Co.)
(Image credited to the London Taxi Company)

Now that the company has added Proton and Lotus to its portfolio, it is time to let the speculation begin.  One scenario could see Geely having Lotus Engineering assist Proton in designing some affordable vehicles that are a blast to drive.  Now I'm sure most of you are sort of puzzled and may even think that Proton would have already taken advantage of their greatest asset, especially then one considers that Proton bought Lotus in 1996.  Well, they haven't and I assume that the reason for this has been Lotus's lack of R&D money up to this point. Another likely scenario would be for Geely to call on Lotus Engineering to help the staple brand (Geely) make dynamic cars, or better yet, assist Volvo and its efforts with the Polestar performance sub-brand.  Imagine a Volvo S60 Polestar that had its suspension and steering engineered by Lotus.  Now that would be something.
(Image credited to Proton)
(Image credited to Volvo)

While I can honestly see any one of these scenarios taking place, we must not forget about the fact that Geely has now gained one hell of a halo brand with Lotus, one that's known for creating some of the best handling, lightweight cars on the market.  The brand has been starved of fresh new product for awhile now, with the Evora 400 (a refreshed version of the Evora) being the brand's only new model for some time. With its limited funds, Lotus also produced a roadster version of the Exige a few years ago, which was kind of strange seeing as how the Elise served the same purpose as the Exige Roadster.  However, the one thing that is still fresh in my mind are the five of great-looking concepts that debuted at the 2010 Paris Auto Show (one of which was a new Esprit), and the fact none of them made it into production.  However, with the funds back in place, it might be time for Lotus designers and engineers to go back to the drawing board and put at least a few of these models into production.  Earlier this year, it was also reported that the brand wanted to produce a crossover of its own, and perhaps that profitable dream may also become a reality.

The main reason I see hope for this treasured brand under Geely's ownership is the fact that Geely will most likely turn Lotus around in the same manner that it used to turn Volvo around.  In other words, it will give Lotus a lot of money and tell let it run autonomously of the parent company.  If those in charge of the Lotus car brand mess up, the brand is done.  This methodology has worked with Volvo, and in a product-driven industry, allocating Lotus the cash that it needs to develop new products will surely lead to success, even if it does take a few years for the fruits of this labor to emerge, as was the case with Volvo.
(Lotus Elite Concept- Image credited to Lotus)
(Lotus Elise Concept- Image credited to Lotus)
(Lotus Eterne Hybrid Sedan Concept- Image credited to Lotus)
(Lotus Elan Concept- Image credited to Lotus)
(Lotus Esprit Concept- Image credited to Lotus)

I know it seems hard to believe, but it appears that Lotus finally has a bright new future ahead of it, and for enthusiast of the brand and the industry alike, this is certainly fantastic news.

Thank you for reading and have a good week.

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