J ean-Marc Gales had to make difficult decisions to lead Lotus out of the crisis. Three years ago there were still 1,200 employees working in the factory in Hethel. Today there are almost 820. 'We had to make this cut to save the others,' says the Lotus managing director.
The detoxification of the traditional English company has paid off on paper. “Our EBITDA was positive for six months in a row,” said the Luxembourger. EBITDA, that is the operating result before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. So practically the operating result without distortions.
Lotus again fully follows the Chapman philosophy
But it's not just the numbers that make the boss happy. But also the attitude and the spirit within his team. 'The house has completely inhaled Colin Chapman's philosophy again.' Says Gales, who has the biography of the legendary company founder on his desk. There is also a model of the Lotus 49 on the table - one of the most famous Formula 1 cars in history.
With Elise, Exige and Evora, Lotus currently has three series. The offer fans out Lotus with several derivatives. The Elise is available as a Sport, Sport 220, Cup 250, 250 Special Edition and as a racing device Elise Race 250. The Exige is built by Lotus as a Sport 350, Sport 380 and as a Race 380. In other words: two versions for the road, one for the racetrack . The Evora is available as 400 and Sport 410. The sports car manufacturer recently introduced the new top versions for the road from Exige (Sport 380) and Evora (Sport 410). “They are ordered more often than the brothers positioned below,” reports Gales. That means more money for the Lotus till.
The handset is particularly popular at Lotus. “95 percent of them order it from Exige. Originally, we had anticipated a 30 percent share of sales from automatic transmissions, especially with a view to the Asian market, ”explains Gales. 'Even with the Evora, the proportion of manual switches is higher than with the automatic.' The Elise only offers Lotus with a six-speed manual switch. Gales derives a forecast for the future from the large proportion of manual transmissions at Lotus. 'I think the handset is on the rise again.'
Lotus Evora Cabrio is coming
The model timetable provides for further derivatives from the existing series until 2020. Four new versions are to come this year. Likewise in 2018. It should bemainly deal with other cup and racing models. Lotus wants to build a convertible from the Evora. 'We hope that we will present the convertible this financial year,' says the managing director. It should go in the direction of a Targa-like roof construction with a removable roof part. Like the Elise. Incidentally, the financial year ends in March 2018.
A special version of the Evora is already being considered beforehand. It should weigh less than 1,300 kilograms. The top model Evora Sport 410 weighs 1,325 kilos (empty weight). Lotus wants to achieve the savings through carbon wheels, among other things, which are currently being developed. “You can deduct two kilograms on each side alone.” Lotus also wants to build the front and rear bumpers from carbon. That should save a further 15 kilograms.
The new Elise should be the benchmark in the segment
Lightweight construction is part of the company spirit. This is how Chapman lived it, and this is exactly how the current company management wants to imitate it. 'Every additional kilogram has to be slowed down and accelerated again,' says Gales. Simple calculation: more weight costs performance. In addition, the handling and aerodynamics should define the brand essence. “When it comes to aerodynamics, our goal is to maintain the drag coefficient while at the same time increasing downforce.” The Exige Sport 380 is an example of increased contact pressure. The purist presses the body with 140 at top speed (286 km /h) Kilograms on the floor. The comparison with Exige Sport 350: 88 kilograms at 274 km /h.
However, the weight of the current Elise (Series 3) will not be able to maintain the model change, which is planned for 2020. Because the sports car is a little longer and wider. “This is required by the safety regulations”, Gales apologizes, but he promises for the Elise Series 4: “The new Elise will be recognizable as the Elise again at 100 or 200 meters. The driving behavior becomes the benchmark in the segment. The new Elise will go around corners like no other car. ”
Gales also promises more power for the four-cylinder. And a better sound. “A four-cylinder has to sound good in a sports car. Otherwise half of the driving experience will be lost. We're working hard on the new exhaust. ”The four-cylinder should sound significantly bassier. The Luxembourger cannot let go of the weight issue. The future Elise should weigh less than a ton. “It will be at least 350 kilograms lighter than a Porsche Boxster.” According to DIN standards, the 718 Boxster weighs 1,335 kilograms. Minus 350 kilos would result in a weight of 985 kilos for the Elise. The weights of the current Elise series: Elise Sport (866 kg, curb weight), Elise Sport 220 (914 kg), Elise Cup 250 (931 kg) and Elise 250 Special Edition (899 kg).
SUV with all-wheel drive - over 200 kilos lighter than Porsche Macan
One industry trend does not stop at Lotus: the SUV theme. The engineers inHethel already built. “We are currently in the final stages of making it drivable,” reports Gales. “The model has already rolled a few meters.” But before Lotus builds a long leg for customers, the supervisory board still has to approve. “For us, an SUV would be another dimension of investment. An SUV would be particularly interesting for China and the USA, ”says Gales.
The details that the Lotus boss reveals illustrate that the plans are well advanced. “We aim for interior and exterior dimensions similar to the Macan. But the body will sit lower for a better center of gravity. ”Porsche's bestseller is 4,697 millimeters long, 1,923 millimeters wide and 1,624 millimeters high. The Macan weight according to DIN: 1,770 kilograms. “We want to be at least 200 to 250 kilograms lighter.” Since more and more customers are looking for SUV coupés, Lotus is orienting itself in this direction. Gales draws comparisons to the Lamborghini Urus. Means: Even a Lotus SUV should be fully trimmed for performance.
In our photo show we show you the Lotus Exige Sport 380 in the driving report.