Two weeks ago Lotus announced that it would retrench up to 325 people from its workforce, or around 25 per cent of the company's total headcount. To counteract the bad news, Jean-Marc Gales, Lotus' CEO and formerly head of PSA Peugeot Citroen, spoke to AutoExpress about the company's product pipeline and its plans for the next few years.
Beyond 2017, though, the CEO was a little more cagey about giving direct answers. The only two things he would rule unequivocally were commercial vehicles and a "two-tonne animal ... wearing a Lotus badge".
In August it was reported that Gales had presented a product plan, which included an SUV and a sedan, to the board of DRB-Hicom, Lotus' parent company. Asked directly if a sedan or crossover could really be a Lotus, the recently installed CEO replied, "We believe we can combine Lotus brand values with many possible segments and crossovers."
He continued, "Nothing has been decided, but saloons and crossovers are certainly two segments that come to mind, I would say SUV/crossover definitely. If Lotus does an SUV or a four-door saloon it will be light, performance-led and it will have outstanding looks. This is what we want and this is in line with our heritage."
Currently the Hethel-based company uses 1.8-litre four-cylinder engines and 3.5-litre V6 motors from Toyota. That situation is not likely to change in either the short or medium term.
"We cannot and should not develop our own engine – most small car makes that have gone that route have disappeared," Gales said. As is currently case, Lotus will tweak and tune the engines it receives from outside to make sure "it sounds and performs much better".
For further joint ventures Proton "would be the first port of call", as it too is owned by Malaysian manufacturing conglomerate DRB-Hicom.
According to Gales, the last few years and next few ahead are about righting the ship and bringing sales up to scratch. Last year Lotus sold 1200 cars, with a target of 2000 set for this year and 3000 locked in for 2015. Last quarter the company moved 505 cars worldwide, its best figure in around three years, so the CEO is confident that Lotus can meet its targets.