► New Lotus SUV due in 2022
► Volvo/Geely Swedish know-how
► But what will Lotus faithful think?
Lotus is in the midst of developing its first crossover SUV, which will be assembled by the Hethel company's owners Geely in its factory in Wuhan, China. And the big news is that the crossover vehicle will be a pure electric model.
'We're not doing any hybrid drivetrains,' Lotus Cars new managing director, Matt Windle, told Car in March 2021, 'because we're going straight to electric.'
It's a sign that thinghs are changing big-time under the ownership of Geely Holdings and Malaysian car group Etika Automotive. 'We now have the opportunity to go into new markets, new segments, new technologies, which will give us the revenue that allows us to keep doing the cars that people love out of Hethel in the UK.'
These latest spy shots don't look like a Lotus...
No, they don't. Given Lotus is part of the Geely group, it appears to be using a Lynk & Co. 01 SUV body shell to hide what's underneath.
What we can glean from the images is that the wheelarches have been chopped up and the wheelbase itself appears to have a wider track than that of the Lynk & Co model. It makes sense that Lotus will be going for larger wheels and a wider footprint than that of what the Geely architecture has already used.
And what's the Lotus SUV's powertrain? These new images show electric warning stickers and no visible exhaust which confirm Windle's promise that the new Lotus SUV will be fully-electric like the Type 130 Evija hypercar.
Exclusive: Lotus electric plans revealed
Why won't the Lotus SUV be built at Hethel?
Industrial logic dictates the SUV won't be assembled in Norfolk. The Hethel facility’s production capacity of around 5000 units is not enough for the kind of volumes associated with an SUV.
While the existing HQ will remain the base of operations for its sports cars, the crossover is almost certain to be built in Geely’s new plant in Wuhan, China, which will be outfitted to build vehicles across Geely’s portfolio.
But it's not based on a stock Geely platform. 'One of the things which shows the intent for Lotus is that we're designing our own architectures,' says Windle. For more on the platform strategy, read this Matt Windle interview.
Lotus sales have been around 1500 a year for the past few years. But a successful crossover SUV, built in China and embraced by consumers there, would supercharge sales growth.
CAR magazine's guide to the best electric cars and EVs
Target Porsche: the Lotus crossover back story
The first ‘four-door Lotus’ SUV is likely to target Porsche’s Macan 4x4. Back in 2018, then boss, Jean-Marc Gales, was expecting to share electrical systems and driver assistance kit with Volvo and other Geely Group models – though it wouldn't be much like fellow stablemate the Volvo XC90.
‘It would still be lowest in its class, maybe the widest in its class to hold the road well, certainly the lightest, certainly the best on track.’ Gales admired Alfa Romeo’s execution of the Stelvio, but Lotus’s four-door is still in its early stages, with launch three to four years away. ‘It needs to feel, drive and look like a Lotus,’ he vowed.
Earlier Lotus 4x4 plans
It's not the first time we've heard plans for a Lotus SUV. Back in 2015 we reported on a strategy that looked to collaborate with Chinese brand Goldstar on a smaller crossover, designed to rival the Macan. Our CGI artist's impression revealed a similar stance and typical Lotus styling cues.
With Hethel's lightweight expertise, that car was designed to be 200-300kg less hefty than its German rival, helped by small-capacity four-cylinder power.
'It looks like a Lotus SUV, it looks lightweight, and it will drive like no other SUV because it will be much lighter,' chief executive Gales told CAR at the time. 'It will look stunning. At the front you'll see a taste of 3-Eleven, plus hints of the Elite and other Lotus cars.'
But with Lotus joining Volvo and the London Electric Vehicle Company under the ownership of Geely, the Goldstar plan has bitten the dust as the conglomerate goes it alone.
Should Lotus be following the well-trodden path into the SUV segment? Be sure to sound off in our comments below!
Lotus reviews by CAR magazine