Lotus Adds an S.U.V., With Eyes on Mainstream Appeal

These cars are crucial to Lotus’s “Vision 80” strategy, named for the brand’s 80th anniversary, which arrives in 2028. “The mission statement is to transform us into a global premium performance car brand, taking us from niche sports cars into significant volumes, globally, with products that are innovative, bring us into new markets and new segments, and generally grow the brand across the globe,” Mr. Windle said.

Lotus’s goal is to be selling 100,000 vehicles, annually, worldwide by 2028. This is a lofty target. In 2021, the brand sold just 1,701. Another esteemed and long-lived sports car maker, Maserati, has had similar sales targets during the past decade, with deep-pocketed investment and expanded products. Last year, Maserati delivered just over 24,000 cars.

Moreover, this is not the first time Lotus has promised a major expansion. In 2010, under the leadership of Dany Bahar, a former Ferrari executive, the brand unveiled five new cars and promised they would be in production in five years. Accusations of financial impropriety by Mr. Bahar, and dueling lawsuits, ensued. None of these cars materialized.

Mr. Windle distinguishes the brand’s current situation from that one. “I think in that era, they were trying to sell a plan to go and get investment,” he said. “In this era, we have the investment, we have the plan, and then we’ll go and talk about it afterward.” He added that Lotus had “a 10-year strategy that is fully invested.”

This heavy stake is unfamiliar for the brand. “Lotus has always been just shy of bankruptcy,” said Ross Robbins, a 78-year-old retired businessman, marque historian and author, and member of Lotus Limited, among the oldest and largest of the brand’s American affinity groups. “Even when Chapman was there in the early days, they never had enough capital, and they ricocheted from disaster to disaster.”

Yet this resource poverty catalyzed some of the scrappy company’s achievements. “They’ve always bootstrapped stuff,” yielding cars that were advanced and innovative and that punched above their weight, Mr. Robbins said. “But they’re fragile, and not for a person who wasn’t pretty well versed in mechanical things, because they need a lot of attention.”

Loving something that consistently fails is a perverse compulsion common to many owners of temperamental cars. So it follows that Lotus maintains an extremely engaged owner group.

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