The first SUV of British sports car maker Lotus will be built in China and will be exported to Europe and maybe even the United States. This SUV, which is planned to be launched in 2019, will go up against cars like the Porsche Macan, according to Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales in an interview with Automotive News Europe.
On April 17, Lotus parent company Proton Holdings, which is owned by Malaysia’s DRB-Hicom Group, said that a joint venture deal had been entered with Chinese company Goldstar Heavy Industrial to build Lotus cars in the Fujian province. Within the next 12 months, Lotus will assemble a prototype of the SUV to help the joint venture to acquire a license to produce cars in China.
Gales said that this new car will be built in line with Lotus’ tradition of making cars that are dynamic, lightweight, and competent. He added that while SUVs are big and heavy, Lotus will build a lighter and faster car. Lotus will build this SUV on a platform formed with Proton with a combination of steel and aluminum.
The automaker says that it will target a weight of around 1,500kg to 1,600kg, which makes it lighter than potential rivals such as the Macan and Audi Q5 by 100-200kg. This SUV’s price will be a bit more affordable than the Macan. It’s also likely that it will feature a hybrid powertrain. Gales added that Lotus hopes to sell higher than 5,000 units each year of this SUV, bringing Lotus’ annual worldwide sales to around 10,000 by 2020.
This car will be exported to Europe as well as other Asian markets. Gales said that it’s not sure yet if it will be shipped to the United States. He said that it will depend on federalization and if it can be done easily. For the last financial year that ends in March, Lotus sales increased by 55% to slightly higher than 2,000 cars.
If the China venture proceeds according to plan, Lotus will think about expanding its range built in this country. Gales said that production of sports car will continue to be at the automaker’s facility in Hethel, eastern England. He added that Proton will have to provide the investment for this new model. However, he didn’t provide more details.
He said that this car is viable within its budget limitations. It can be recalled that in 2006, Proton attempted to scrap an earlier joint deal with Goldstar after it wasn’t able to acquire a car-building license in China.
He explained that there are signs that the Chinese government will approve a manufacturing license this time. By 2020, China will become the biggest SUV market in the world, Gales said. SUV sales in China for the first quarter grew 49% to 1.3 million, making up nearly 25% of passenger car sales in the country, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.