Lotus was the big surprise of the 2010 Paris Auto Show, showcasing an onslaught of five concept vehicles designed to move the company upmarket and compete with the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche.
It was an ambitious move, with the striking Elan concept among the first to usher in the new tide at Lotus. Production was said to begin as early as 2012.
Turns out that ambition was all show and no go, because now we hear news that we’ll have to wait until at least 2016 for Lotus’ two-seat, midengine 450-hp supercharged 4.0-liter V6 Elan. But Lotus fans can at least take some solace in the rebirth of an old favorite:
The Lotus Esprit. But even with that car, Lotus may be digging itself into a big hole.
With the Elise and Exige having already ended production, the only new cars populating Lotus showrooms for the immediate future are the 3.5-liter, 276-hp Evora and 345-hp Evora S. Originally, Lotus planned to shut down the Evora to make room for the Elan. Instead Lotus management has decided to give the Evora a traditional model cycle, meaning five or six more years of variants.
If a second-generation Evora isn’t developed, the Elan could come to fill the gap in the lineup.
A new Esprit, though, appears on track for a 2013 return. However that car will carry a six-figure pricetag (some reports say $175,000) and will begin to move the brand away from its lightweight mantra.
I’m not so sure that’s a good idea.
Lotus has a niche that could become extraordinarily popular as gas prices increase. The company’s small and lightweight but engaging and efficient sports cars could be a gold mine with the right business strategy and marketing plan in place.
Instead, Lotus execs seem to want to chase a market the company doesn’t play in. And they’re not even doing that right.
By revealing all of those cars at once at the Paris show, years ahead of actual production, company execs have effectively eliminated any surprise needed to create a buzz at launch. It puts the company in a catch-22: If any of those cars reach the market, they will look dated and expected. If they don’t reach market, Lotus looks unprepared and out-of-touch with auto production realities.
That’s not exactly a sound plan to bring Lotus to greatness.
I would have rather seen a natural evolution of the Elise and Exige, with the possibility of a more powerful, lightweight and much less expensive Esprit. How about you?