Lotus Celebrates 75 Years of Sports Car Heritage

The company plans to move on from its historic sports car origins in the coming years.

lotus evija
Robert Borrett
  • Lotus is set to celebrate 75 years of motorsports heritage, uncompromising driver's cars, and new beginnings in 2023.
  • The legendary British company responsible for icons like the Elan and Elise is now updating its mission, setting out to become a global performance car maker.
  • After being purchased by Chinese conglomerate Geely in 2017, Lotus has said it will only produce EVs by 2028. Now it's preparing to launch its EV Eletre Hyper SUV.

    Lotus is the pinnacle of enthusiast brands, aimed at creating no-nonsense driver's cars for over 75 years now. That's right, the infamous British brand is set to celebrate over seven decades in business come 2023. Built by legendary engineer Colin Chapman and astute businesswoman Hazel Chapman, Lotus has gone through a series of incarnations since its inception, and it's set to keep changing as the new year rolls in.

    yes, gm owned lotus not so long ago here we see a commemorative edition lotus esprit turbo
    Lotus has changed hands a lot and was even owned briefly by General Motors, as exampled by this commemorative edition Lotus Esprit.

    The company has redesigned its logo and announced a branding shift for the coming year, but the changes go beyond words and images. Lotus says it's refocusing on becoming a global performance car business, expanding beyond its UK roots. Given the 21st-century ownership changes and gradual ideology shift toward electric powertrains, it seems rebranding is necessary.

    "Lotus of 2023 is a world away from a garage in north London, thanks to the billions being invested in our company on product development, an electrified future and more," said Matt Windle, group vice president and managing director of Lotus Cars. "Today we have engineering facilities in the UK, Germany, and China; design studios in Hethel, Coventry, and Shanghai; and new world-class manufacturing bases in Norfolk and China. It's at the last of these that assembly of the first Lotus lifestyle car—the Eletre Hyper-SUV—begins later this month."

    lotus eletre
    The future of Lotus looks like this: the 900-hp electric Eletre Hyper SUV.

    The announcement of the 900-hp electric performance SUV, on the other hand, was shocking. Coming from a company that produced the Elan, Elise, and Esprit, the curb weight of an EV SUV alone seems sacrilegious, but markets are changing and Lotus is trying to keep up. SUVs have never been more popular, providing manufacturers with a steady flow of high-demand and high-margin sales. Additionally, as emissions regulations shift in favor of EVs, it makes sense that a pioneering brand like Lotus wants to try its hand at performance EVs.

    Beyond regulatory and market pressures, the immediate push toward electrification is likely a result of Lotus' current parent company Geely. After acquiring a 51% stake in the British company in 2017, Geely announced a joint venture in 2021 with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, aiming to produce a range of electric performance cars using shared platforms between Lotus and Alpine. Lotus announced its own intentions shortly thereafter, saying it will produce solely electric cars by 2028. Geely also owns a majority stake in Polestar and Volvo, both of which are already on the EV path.

    lotus emira
    The Lotus Emira is a relic of the company’s past, with a driver-focused mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive configuration and few creature comforts.

    Despite the shift toward SUVs, sports car purists can rest easy knowing the ethos of Colin Chapman remains at Lotus, even if the internal-combustion era is on its way out. The Lotus Evija is everything that a Lotus is historically known for—feather-light and razor-sharp—with a ridiculous 1970 hp and sharp hypercar styling. Traditionalists can even get one last gas-powered sports car from the brand, known as the Emira. With a midengine-mounted 3.5-liter supercharged V6 sourced from Toyota and a six-speed manual, the Emira is what Lotus has historically been all about.

    The interest that Geely has taken in Lotus may extend its lifespan beyond what was previously expected. With more EVs on the way, including a dedicated sports car as well as a coupe, the prospects are bright.

    "The pioneering spirit and commitment of Colin and Hazel Chapman is alive and kicking in Lotus today," the company says. "And we will be celebrating our 75th anniversary in style, paying tribute to the past and looking ahead to the future as we approach our first century."

    Can Lotus survive and even thrive in the all-electric era? Please comment below.

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