Lotus Cars are based in the UK. They manufacturer racing cars and sports cars at the corporate headquarters located in Hethel, Norfolk, United Kingdom. Their most well-known vehicles include the Europa, Esprit, Exige, Evora, Elan, and Elise. Their base is the former location of the RAF Hethel, which is an airfield from World War II situated in Norfolk.
In addition, they own Lotus engineering, which is a consultancy firm. Their facilities are located in the UK, U.S.A, Malaysia, and China. Lotus was owned by Proton after Romano Artioli’s bankruptcy which occurred in 1996. Since 2017, Geely took 51% ownership in the Lotus Company and became the primary shareholder. The leftover 49% belongs to Etika Automotive.
The company engineers race cars and street cars that have fine handling specifications and are lightweight. They’ve also had motorsport success in Formula One racing with Team Lotus. Used Lotus vehicles are popular among enthusiasts as well, and retain their value well.
A Brief History Of Lotus Cars
The Early Years
Lotus Engineering was formed by Colin Dare and Colin Chapman in 1952. They were graduates of the University in London. Their factory was located in some old stables found behind the North London Railway Hotel.
Then, in 1954, the racing group, Team Lotus, split from the parent company, Lotus Engineering. They competed at Formula One races from 1958 through 1994.
Then, in 1959, they formed the Lotus Group of Companies. This includes Lotus Components Limited as well as Lotus Cars Limited. The latter became the company which produces competition and road cars, while Lotus Components Limited later became known as Lotus Racing Limited.
From 1959 through 1966, they operated in the Cheshunt factory. Later, they relocated to Hethel which had a more modern factory plus a facility for road testing. They still use this location and often perform tests on the unused runway track.
During their earlier days, the company sold cars to trailists and privateer racers. The first road cars were sold as kits to avoid paying purchase taxes. This ended during the 1960s. Then, in the 1970s, the company offered the Lotus Elan Plus Two which was the first road car that was not provided as a kit. After that came the Lotus Elite plus the Eclat which were also offered as factory-built models.
The early models of the Lotus Elite featured a fiberglass structure that had steel points used to mount significant components. They continued to be known for their fiberglass design, backbone chassis, plus the twin cam motors. The company also worked alongside Ford to build the company’s Lotus Cortina. They also used a Ford block.
More Vehicle Production
The Lotus Europa came to market during the 1960s. It was only meant to make it into Europe. The Renault engine was mid-mounted plus the car had a lightweight body, and backbone chassis. The Lotus Seven continued into production through the early 1970s. This had a simple open-air design that was lightweight. Eventually, the company sold off the rights of production to Caterham.
During the 1970s, the company launched both the Eclat and Elite models. These featured room to hold four passengers, had the option to add air conditioning plus available automatic transmissions. These were designed with the prosperous buyer in mind.
Next came the Lotus Esprit, that featured a mid-engine design. It’s been one of their longest and most well-loved vehicles to date. Lotus produced their own four-cylinder engine series, referred to as the 900 series. Later, they created a V8 plus a turbocharged version which was placed inside the Esprit.
During the 1980s, they worked alongside Vauxhall Motors and produced the powerful Lotus Carlton. It’s been the fastest Vauxhall road car.
When the 1980s hit, Group Lotus found themselves in trouble financially. They went from producing 1,200 vehicles each year to less than 400. This was a result of the economic recession plus the company had a limited model range at the time.
In 1982, Chapman and Toyota agreed to exchange their intellectual property. This led to Lotus Engineering offering help with the Toyota Supra development. It also allowed them to produce the Lotus Excel which replaced the Lotus Eclat. Toyota supplied the drivetrain and some other components which kept the cost down.
As Chapman hoped to join back into the United States market, he met Joe Bianco. He was a banking consultant and law professor at the time. Bianco felt that Lotus should enter the States as a separate company. That’s how Lotus Performance Cars was born. Even the general manager from North America’s Ferrari division, John Spiech came onboard to run Lotus Performance Cars. That’s when they first imported the Turbo Esprit. With this change, Lotus sales in the United States began to skyrocket and landed in the triple digits.
In 1982, when Chapman was just 54 years old, he passed away from a sudden heart attack. By this time, the company was known for their extravagant road cars, plus they had created a successful racing career. In fact, they were the winners of a Formula One Championship a total of seven times.
When Chapman died, Lotus was already linked to the infamous DeLorean Motor Company’s scandal. During the manufacturing of their DeLorean DMC-12, UK Government subsidies were used. Lotus built the chassis and money seemed to disappear, which caused the Revenue inspectors to impose stiff fines on Lotus. Chapman passed away before the conclusion, but the judge asserted that a 10-year sentence would have been imposed.
In 1983, the company faced bankruptcy. That’s when the owner of the British Car Auctions, David Wickins decided to take over as the company’s chairman. Together, with Mark Thatcher, his friend, they took 29% stake in Lotus. They also added some new investors and became hailed as saving Lotus.
By 1985, investors realized they didn’t have the capital needed to produce new models. That’s when they began searching for a major automotive manufacturer to purchase the company. In 1986, the company sold all of the North American stakes to the automaker, General Motors. Later, they acquired an additional 91% stake.
In 1993, they sold off the company to A.C.B.N. Holdings S.A. located in Luxembourg, owned by the same businessman that owned Bugatti. Then, in 1966, they were sold again to Proton which is a Malaysian company.
Michael Kimberley, known as the man who who once steered the company during the 1970s, came back and became the CEO of the group in 2006. He retired in 2009 and was replaced with Dany Bahar. He worked as the Senior Vice-President with the Ferrari company for the brand and commercial operations but was suspended in 2012. After an complete investigation completed about his professional conduct, he was terminated and Aslam Farikullah took his place. In 2014, Jean-Marc Gales took his position as CEO and earned the company their first profit after they had decades of loss. He left in 2018 because of personal reasons but was replaced with Geely’s Feng Qingfeng.
Alternative Propulsion Methods
Lotus Engineering has a team solely dedicated to producing electric and hybrid vehicles. Their first hybrid concept car was the Evora 414E. It featured a range of over 300 miles plus a 0-60 mph time of just 4.4 seconds.
They’ve also partnered with Jaguar to create a hybrid luxury executive sedan under the project, “LimoGreen.”
Tesla Motors purchased the chassis used on 2,500 Roadsters from the Lotus company. This is mostly because Lotus bodies offer sharp handling and light weights. The Tesla Roadster shares 10% of the parts of an Elise, but Lotus supplies up to 40% of the components used.
Lotus Safety and Crash Ratings
There aren’t many studies done on the crash-effectiveness of the Lotus brand. With that in mind, it’s easy to see that these cars won’t protect you as a bigger car would. They also don’t feature all the bells and whistles that newer vehicles seem to come with.
That’s because they aren’t designed to be a safety-conscious automobile, they are created for speed and their sleek appearance. Overall, they aren’t going to hold up well in an accident because of their lower mass. In a single car accident, most people have a good record of walking away unharmed. That’s due to the sturdy frame.
The best way for a driver to remain safe while cruising in a Lotus is to stay alert and aware. Accident avoidance is the best active safety measure around. A driver that is responsive and alert could make all the difference on the road.
Lotus Safety Equipment
The Lotus Elise left the United States market in 2011 due to non-compliant airbags but is making a return in 2020. When that happens, it will have all the required safety equipment such as smart airbags and side airbags. Other than that, the company prefers not to install any safety measures because it weighs the cars down.
Lotus Safety Recalls
Because the company doesn’t make that many cars, it’s also expected that there won’t be a lot of recalls either. They’ve experienced their own set of recalls over the years, but they didn’t affect too many vehicles. They’ve recalled 860 Elise, Exige, and Evora vehicles from the years 2008-2011. That’s because the oil coolers might detach from the fitting which could lead to a fire. There were no reported injuries or death from this recall.
Another one that occurred involved 80 supercharged 2011 Evoras. This one involved manual transmission models which might have an oil leak. The oil could’ve been ejected onto the rear wheels and road which led to a reduction in control and potential engine failure. Again, there were no reported injuries or deaths from that recall.
Consumer Satisfaction Reports & Dependability Ratings
Consumer reviews on the Lotus cars are fairly high. That’s mainly because the people who purchase a Lotus know what they are getting. They don’t expect to get the smoothest, quietest ride from their vehicle.
For many years, the brand proved to be unreliable. Most recently, the company began using Toyota engines. When that happened, there were far fewer complaints about dependability. Some of the most common problems include:
– wear in the steering rack
– undertray might come loose
– stone chips are picked up easily
There have been several awards given to Lotus cars over the years. They were even honored with the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Contribution to International Trade. This occurred in 2002 and they were only one of the 85 companies. They held that honor for several years.
The Elise has also been the recipient of numerous awards. This includes the “Best Driver’s Car 2001” from Autocar, “Car of the Year 2003” from UK Horizons TV, and the “Best Sportscar 2004” from BBC Top Gear Magazine.
Lotus has some unique engines in their lineup. The Range Extender Engine is an all-aluminum, monoblock, 1200cc, three-cylinder, four-stroke engine that produces 47 horsepower. This design specifically drove the alternator for smaller hybrid vehicles. It’s a lightweight engine at just 123 pounds and it doesn’t have a cylinder head that’s detachable. The engine block and cylinder head are an all-in-one piece which reduces the size, production costs, and weight. The engine doesn’t turn any belt-driven ancillaries like a power-steering pump, air conditioning compressor, or alternator. The block isn’t required to accommodate these ancillaries making it simpler in design.
In 2001, they developed a V8 that ushered in a new line of vehicles. Weighing just 375 pounds, the motor is lubricated with a dry sump which saves depth plus it features a 180-degree flat plane crank. Performance of this engine hit 582 horsepower and was used mainly for motorsports.
James Bond Movies
Lotus cars have appeared in two of the James Bond movies. In 1977, The Spy Who Loved Me featured an Esprit S1 that earned the nickname “Wet Nellie.” In 1981, For Your Eyes Only showcased an Esprit Turbo.
Snapshot of the Company
Lotus Cars Limited is a British automotive company based in Hethel, Norfolk, United Kingdom. They’ve existed since 1952. Over the years, they’ve had several different owners, including General Motors from 1986-1993, Bugatti Automobili from 1993-1996, and Proton from 1996-2017. Geely now owns them since 2017. They have 1,487 employees worldwide and Daniel Donghui Li is the current Chairman. In addition, Feng Qingfeng is the company’s CEO while Phillip Lee holds the title of CFO.
Group Lotus contains two distinct organizations: Lotus Engineering and Lotus Cars. They don’t just manufacture cars, but also provide engineering consultancy to other automakers. They particularly focus on suspension engineering.
Their powertrain department also supplies the 4-cylinder Ecotec motor that’s found in several GM vehicles. They’ve been used in the GM Vauxhall, as well as with Opel, Chevrolet, Saturn, and Saab vehicles.
The British sports car brand made a profit in 2017 after losing more than $50 million during 2016. It was the company’s first profitable year in more than 40 years. Part of the great loss in 2016 was due to safety regulations in the United States which forced the company to stop selling the Evora. Not that the revamped Evora 400 is back on sale, profits are rising.
Lotus Engineering is an offshoot of the car division. They provide consulting to third parties in the automobile industry. They work from the United Kingdom headquarters, but also have offices in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Malaysia, and China.
Some public projects from Lotus Engineering include the DeLorean DMC-12, Vauxhall Lotus Carlton, the 1991 Dodge Spirit R/T, the Vauxhall VX220, and the Aston Martin DB9 chassis. Lotus also designed the LT5 DOHC V8 powerplant used by the Chevrolet Corvette C4 ZR-1.
There have been other big projects they’ve completed. The Dodge EV concept is based off a Europa S. Lotus built the suspension and tweaked the handling on the Nissan GT-R. They’ve also partnered with Jaguar to develop a chassis system plus engine management.
Inside the logo are four letters which reveal the initials of Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman, the founder. When the logo was first created, Chapman allowed the other partners, Nigel and Michael Allen, to believe the initials stood for Colin Chapman plus the Allen Brothers.
Since 2006, the company partnered with e2amp Inc. who is in charge of marketing in the United States. They are based in Los Angeles and they’ve been responsible for the marketing, branding, and advertising campaigns.
During its earlier days, Lotus asked customers to race their own cars. They first entered into Formula One racing through Team Lotus, their sister company, in 1958. Then, in 1960, Stirling Moss drove a Formula One vehicle and won the first team Grand Prix. Just a few years later in 1963, Jim Clark drove the Lotus 25 and won the F1 World Constructors Championship. Unfortunately, he died only five years later when he crashed in Hockenheim because his rear tire failed. Despite the loss, Graham Hill went on to win that year’s championship.
The team is also credited with producing the mid-engine layout that’s so popular in IndyCars. In addition, they’ve developed the first chassis that was integrated into the body. They’ve also been a pioneer when it comes to reshaping the underside of a race car which creates additional downforce and for adding wings. Another innovative thing they’ve done is move the radiator to the car’s sides which increases aerodynamic performance. The team is also credited with inventing an active suspension.
When Chapman died in the 1980s, the Team continued winning Formula One races. Aryton Senna drove from 1985 through 1987 and won twice each year, with a total of 17 pole positions. The company last raced in Formula One in 1994, with 79 total Grand Prix wins.
Other Motorsport Ventures
In 1992, Classic Team Lotus began. They’re a historic motorsports team that maintains the F1 cars plus preserves the archives. The company runs under the direction of Clive Chapman, Colin’s son.
Aside from Formula One racing, they participate in other motorsports. They sponsor the KV team during the IndyCar Series. They’ve also raced a Lotus during the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011.
The company also attempted to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2012. After just ten laps, both Simona de Silvestro and Jean Alesi were black-flagged for not maintaining a competitive pace. They’ve haven’t been back to try again.
In Hethel, Norfolk manufacturing facility, there’s a factory tour available. It allows visitors to explore the lifestyle of the company and watch the epicenter operate. There are many locations throughout the factory to watch the hand-built production of this high-performance line of vehicles.
What’s interesting about the tour is that no two of them are the same. That’s because this facility uses innovative engineering and precise manufacturing. Through the plant, it’s possible to see the heritage and history of the brand as visitors view the creation as it unfolds.
Tours include a behind the scenes look at the facility and the construction of vehicles. A factory guide takes visitors through the entire process of production, including:
- Engine prep
- Sub-frame prep
- Body bonding
- Chassis assembly
- Final assembly
- Quality check and sign off
- Factory shop
There’s an additional option to take another tour of the historic workshops and factory of Team Lotus as well.
Lotus Automobile Finance
In-house financing is available, but unlike traditional dealerships, there aren’t many incentives to take advantage of. In 2015, the company also began offering financing to customers located in France. That wholesale finance was provided by CGI Finance.
Many people have trouble financing the used cars, especially when they reach ten years old. Most people can’t pay cash outright for the purchase, but most financial institutions don’t want to get involved with something that old.
There are 39 dealerships located in the United States with one more situated in Puerto Rico. Dealers have locations major metropolitan areas, heavily concentrated on the west and east coast of the country. In addition, two centers that strictly do service work. They are located in Los Gatos, California and Closter, New Jersey.
3 Interesting Facts about Lotus
1 – The company uses fewer parts for their cars. This helps to keep them lighter and move faster. With fewer parts also comes fewer things to break, making the company more dependable. Their designs have allowed them to be a leader in environmentally-friendly car technology.
2 – The seating is low. While most sports cars’ seats sit lower than an average car, the Lotus takes it to an extreme. While it has a purpose, this makes it difficult for most average drivers to feel comfortable and maneuver. That’s why they aren’t ideal cars for long-distance travel.
3 – The company helped created parts for the Sinclair C5 electric tricycle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Lotus Cars Reliable? There aren’t enough vehicles from the brand on the roads for accurate reliability surveys. That’s why data relies on customer surveys. Overall, most people find satisfaction with their vehicles and agree they’re reliable.
Which Lotus Elise Should I Buy? The third generation became available in 2010 and featured new headlights. The low-range unit features a 1.6-liter engine and 134 horsepower. The 1.8-liter model comes with a supercharger which increases the horsepower to 217. The Lotus Elise Cup 250 was revealed in 2016 and featured a 1.8-liter supercharged inline-4 engine with 243 horsepower. In 2017, the Cup 260 was unveiled with the same 1.8-liter supercharged inline-4 engine, but with 250 horsepower. The latest special edition is the Elise Sprint, available with the 1.6-liter naturally-aspirated engine or 1.8-liter supercharged engine.
Where Can I Find a Lotus on Sale? There are 39 dealerships in the United States that offer both new and used Lotus vehicles. Aside from that, there are many used automobiles sold by private dealers and owners online. If you watch, you’ll often be able to find one at a bargain price.
Who Makes Lotus Cars? Lotus cars are manufactured by the fine engineers from the Group Lotus plc., at a facility built at the former RAF Hethel air force base in Norfolk, in the United Kingdom.