Is there even place for this company any more? I am talking about actual viability in today’s market, where it is a genuine competitor to today’s established brands, and not remaining the quirky sportscar of choice for those stuck in the past.
Let’s face it, Lotus cars are not up to the standard of the established brands. Finding out someone has opted for a Lotus over a Porsche is not only surprising, but also a little silly. Sure, Lotus may be an undiluted driving experience, but look at what you are sacrificing in order to go round a corner half a second faster than everyone else. You’ve got no comfort, no in car technology, not even a proper cup holder!
This would be fine if the cars were relatively cheap, but they aren’t cheap. You don’t even get bulletproof build quality. It still has the feeling of being built by a couple of ex-RAF pilots in a shed somewhere in Norfolk.
The problem isn’t even that it is still a cottage industry. If it maintained some sort USP, like Morgan or Ariel, it would be fine, but as it stands the Lotus cars are a little anonymous. I, for the life of me, cannot come up with a reason, either logically or emotionally, to buy a Lotus. They are too behind the market to be considered relevant any more.
The last time we were wowed by Lotus was during the reign of Dany Bahar, when he showed up with five concept cars, proudly proclaiming that he shall be bringing Lotus up to the standard of Ferrari. That was over four years ago, and since then Bahar has been relieved of his duties due to a questionable performance. Then there was a minor crisis involving potential investors, which eventually died down, followed shortly by the appointment of ex-PSA chief, Jean-Marc Gales.
Now, yet again, there is talk of new cars to go toe-to-toe with Porsche. There are strong hints of an SUV and a saloon a la Cayenne and Panamera. Which would be fine, if it weren’t for the choice of engines they seem to interested in. Basically, they are looking to Toyota for engines. Now there is nothing wrong with Toyota engines, but they are not comparable to Porsche’s engines. For them to be even remotely considered they have to either be backed by a big company willing to provide engines (like BMW does for Morgan), or follow Alfa’s lead, put their heads down and create an engine of their own.
But before they dip their toe into the premium market, they want to milk everything out of the current range, with endless special editions. Will it work? I doubt it. If people aren’t buying Lotus cars now, special paint jobs and automatic gearboxes will not tempt buyers. Their cars are sub-standard. Why spend £50k on a Lotus, when for the same money you can buy something as beautiful as a 4C or as technically perfect as the Cayman. It appears to me, that Lotus do not have a clear direction of where they are, and where they should be going. They are in a state of limbo, unable to progress with the current crop of cars , and unable to progress unless they sell some cars.
So what is the solution? Well a BMW-Morgan relationship would have some serious potential to Lotus. A company like Mercedes could take Lotus to great heights, providing them with engines, gearboxes and infotainment systems, whilst allowing Lotus to grow and thrive in the sportscar market. As it stands Mercedes hasn’t got a share of the sportscar market, so a potential partnership with Lotus could be beneficial to both. Mercedes would get a toe in the market, as well as key knowledge from Lotus on weight saving and chassis development. Lotus would gain a sugar-daddy with enough resources to make them viable. Then, Lotus may finally become a viable car manufacturer with a future.