Chinese vehicle manufacturer Geely is considering investing at least €1.5 billion (€1.7 billion) into its Lotus brand, aiming to compete with Porsche and Ferrari.
The company, which also owns Volvo Cars and the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC), is considering adding to the brand’s manufacturing facilities and research centres in the UK, according to people within the company.
A new design centre would be built in Coventry, while the carmaker’s existing headquarters in Hethel will be expanded, with 200 engineers to be recruited. Following this, another plant will be built in the Midlands to handle expected production expansion as the brand grows.
This will be in addition to a new factory in China which will cater for sales in the Far East, as Geely looks to improve the brand’s standing in its home market.
Geely boss Li Shufu reiterated the brand’s commitment to the UK, saying: ‘This is just like what we have done with the London Taxi Company: engineer in Britain, design in Britain and built in Britain. We see no reason to move fifty years of combined experience to China; let them do what they do best, in Britain.’
Lotus’s first move to compete against Porsche is likely to be an SUV model, which is due to launch in 2020.
There is no word yet as to whether Lotus will convert to fully electric vehicles, or if it will adopt hybrid powertrains alongside petrol counterparts. However, with Volvo moving to an electrified line-up only from 2019, and LEVC converting from the London Taxi Company to an electric vehicle (EV) business supplying transport solution to cities in the UK, there is likely to be some electrified version of any new Lotus model.
Geely acquired the Lotus stake from Proton last year when it also announced it was buying 49.9% of the Malaysian manufacturer. Under previous ownership, Lotus floundered, with ambitious plans for up to eight new models never coming to fruition. Geely believes that significant investment is needed to return the brand to competitiveness.
According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Lotus has so far only sold 145 cars in the UK in the seven months to July 2018, with sales falling 25%.
In February this year, Shufu bought a stake in Daimler, believed to be just over 9%, making him the largest shareholder in the German manufacturer. The Chinese manufacturer’s boss hopes to use Daimler’s EV and hydrogen technology in new cars made by brands owned by Geely.