Sometime last June, Lotus announced that they have a 5 year plan which includes moving upmarket – into Porsche and Ferrari territory. This upmarket move also includes the inclusion of technology that has never seen the light of day in a Lotus. This includes the dual clutch gearbox, traction control systems and exotic materials as well as more than a smattering of creature comforts that have eluded the current batch of Lotus cars. This means luxurious leather, better materials and so forth. A welcome relief as most Lotus are made of fiber glass and would smell like a canoe when new.
However, the thing about this is that Lotus may move away from its roots, where 'lightness' was paramount in all or its cars, and move to the more luxurious fittings of a (normal non-scuderia) Ferrari or a Germanic Porsche like interior. The Lotus Evora, it seems is not luxurious enough for most buyers as sales for this car seem to be slow even in Europe.
The news this month however is even more extreme. Lotus will announce its business plan at the upcoming Paris Motor Show (hopefully it would include a new Esprit) and it has also shocked the automotive industry by issuing termination notices to all of its European dealers. The notice will come into effect in 2012 as the dealership agreement requires giving a two year notice. This is presumed to have happened as Lotus wants to rationalize its dealerships and prepare for the new models and its move upmarket. The dealers however can reapply with new terms and conditions.
We were so used to seeing those ultra light and nimble Lotus cars. The Exige and Elise are pure driver's cars and weigh almost nothing. However, only hardcore drivers buy them, as if you're even a little tubby round the middle, it would be difficult to get in or out of one, especially the Exige. That little fact puts off the majority of Lotus buyers and the move upmarket will make the Lotus larger, and heavier.
I do not know whether Lotus has the image or brand to pull of a Ferrari challenge, and I also do not know what would happen to those hardcore lightweight Lotus fans out there.