The Hethel-based sports car company is planning to have a Lotus SUV on sale by 2019. Unlike its current sports cars, the SUV will be built in China and, eventually, exported around the world.
Lotus CEO, Jean-Marc Gales, has told Autocar that the speciality sports car maker and automotive engineering firm is currently preparing a prototype SUV. In around four months time, this prototype will be presented to Chinese authorities in order to gain their approval for a manufacturing licence in the world's most populous country.
Although the SUV has yet to be christened, Gale says that it will continue the company's tradition of car names beginning with the letter E.
The new SUV will be engineered by Lotus out of its base in Hethel, UK, but the car will be produced in China as part of a three-way collaboration between Lotus; Goldstar Heavy Industrial, a Chinese engineering firm; and Proton, the Malaysian car maker that's also owned by Proton's parent DRB-Hicom.
According to Gales, the Lotus SUV will have an overall length and wheelbase around that of the Porsche Macan. The Lotus soft-roader will be around 30mm lower to the ground, though.
All-wheel drive will be an option, and the Lotus SUV will be differentiated from its rivals by being lighter, faster, and more focussed on sports handling and steering. In all likelihood, the Lotus SUV will feature a steel monocoque clad in composite and aluminium body panels. The company is targeting a weight around 200 kilograms less than its direct competitors.
As with the brand's current vehicles, the SUV will use Toyota engines that have been modified and tuned by Lotus.
Above: The 2006 Lotus APX concept car is unrelated to the company's 2019 SUV.
The car's initial production will be sold in China. Once demand there is satisfied, the company hopes to export the SUV to Europe and Japan. American sales may prove to be more elusive, though, as the USA has many unique design and safety requirements.
Gales insists that producing the SUV in China is not a precursor of a move away from England, with the company planning to keep its headquarters in Hethel, and hiring more production and engineering staff there.
The CEO says the SUV will benefit the company long term, not just financially, but also by ensuring that the company has scale and cost-effective access to many less heralded items, such as wiring looms, infotainment units and ventilation systems, that will be used in the company's next-generation of sports cars, which will continue to be built at Hethel.