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Geely gearing up for Lotus production in China

New factory in Wuhan city will apparently include Lotus models. Quelle surprise

By Nic Cackett / Thursday, January 17, 2019

When news broke last year of Geely's plan to invest £1.5bn into its Norfolk outpost, we greeted it with the cautious optimism of a group of people who had already been led up the garden path more than once. We also acknowledged at the time that it was probably likely that some manufacturing would eventually migrate to China, given the home address of its new owners and the extent of their ambitions for the brand.

Now, it seems, there is virtual confirmation of that fact with Reuters reporting that the opening of a new £1bn factory in Wuhan city was accompanied by an official government statement declaring that "Geely's Lotus project" was included in the future production plans for the plant. Further investigation by the news agency revealed that Geely is already advertising for at least 20 Wuhan-based roles connected to Lotus on its website.

Does this mean your 2020 model year Elise will come with 'Made in China' stamped on it? Probably not. Instead the expansion is consistent with the exponential growth Geely has in mind for its latest aquisition. The Chinese firm is deadly serious about growing its share of the premium market, and building famous-name cars at volume is obviously the best (and quickest) way of doing that. Of course, when we say 'cars', we mean SUVs because - as we already know - that's the bodyshape being hustled through development at Hethel.

That the new model is designed and engineered at Lotus is crucial to its credibility, but Geely will rather be betting that, in the longer term and certainly globally, no-one will much mind that it rolls off the production line elsewhere - in much the same way that no-one gripes about their Porsche Cayenne being built at a Volkswagen plant in Slovakia.

Frankly, if the successful launch of a Chinese-built luxury SUV cements the status of the designers and engineers at Hethel, and bankrolls their ability to make interesting and exciting sports cars - as it does at Porsche - we're all for the increased scale offered to it by space on the production line at a shiny new facility in Wuhan city.

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