PistonHeads (PH) grabbed the opportunity to talk to three Lotus executives recently to get a feel for where the company's going, especially with respect to the forthcoming supercar.
We spoke to:
- Victor Kiam (VK), commercial director and shareholder’s representative of Group Lotus
- Chris Arnold (CA), head of Lotus Motorsport
- Andreas Maenner (AM), European Press Officer of Lotus Cars Ltd.
PH: Mr Kiam, how long have you been with Group Lotus, and how's the company doing?
VK: About three years. We are very satisfied with the actual situation of Lotus Cars. We returned to America this summer and it has been very successful.
PH: Is America the only interesting market at the moment ? European sales are dropping, especially in Germany.
VK: At the moment, nearly 50 per cent of our production is sold to America. Other important markets are the UK and Japan followed by key countries in the mainland of Europe. We sold fewer cars in Europe than last year, but we don't have a general problem in Europe, it' s only a problem of supplying three new products – the Elise 111R, the federal Elise and the Exige.
To maintain our high quality, we ramped up the volumes slowly and steadily so there was no drop in supply. We are now ramped up and our plant in Hethel is working to capacity, producing 125 cars per week. The delivery time for a Lotus in Europe is about three months, in America you still have to wait longer.
PH: In America you are only offering the Elise 111R, is it also planed to
sell the Exige (above) in America?
VK: No, it is not planned in the near future.
PH: Which new Lotus will we see in the future?
VK: We are working on a new range of cars including a new mid engine supercar.
PH: When will it hit the road?
VK: You know it takes time to develop a car, it's not possible from one day to the next, but we won’t give a firmer time constraint than “a few years time”.
PH: In what stage of development is the new "Supercar" at the moment? Has the design already been confirmed?
AM: Development of this vehicle has high priority right now. We will - as a principle - not comment in detail on the stage of development of any project.
PH: What about the supercar's engine - will it be V8 or V10, Lotus-developed or bought-in ?
AM: We are assessing a number of options but will not announce the route that we have chosen for the engine yet.
PH: Are there any plans for a car between the Elise and the ”Supercar“?
AM: We are looking at this type of car at the moment, but it is a concept and feasibility study at the moment. We can't disclose more details right now.
PH: Can we expect a more powerful Elise or Exige?
CA: No, for the time being we don't have the capacity at Lotus Motorsport. It's not only to develop a tuning kit for the engine. The brakes, clutch, gear box etc. must also be modified and we don't have the time for this now.
PH: The spectators and some customers at the Lotus Cup Europe claimed that the sound of the actual Elise / Exige isn't exciting.
CA: It's no problem to develop a loud exhaust, but our cars are all road legal, even the Cup - Exige. Our exhaust respects the current laws regarding emission and on many tracks there are also strict noise limits.
PH: The first season of the Lotus Cup Europe is now over. Did you have any problems with the cars?
CA: No mechanical problems at all. There were only some damages to the cars through accidents.
PH: Is the Cup - Exige a limited edition?
CA: No, it's only limited to our capacity at Lotus Motorsport.
PH: Are there any modifications planned for the Elise within the next year?
AM: No, we have spent time and money to fit the Toyota engine into the Elise. The rear structure of the 111R is new, developed to fit this new engine. At the moment no further modifications are planned.
PH: What can we expect for the Geneva motor show next year?
AM: Let's wait and see...
PH: Gentlemen, thank you.