Geely to buy Lotus. Yep. Chinese car company Geely is buying Lotus. Let that sink in. It’s brilliant.
There’s a few reasons why it’s brilliant.
First, Geely already owns Volvo. In 2010, the Chinese company rescued the Swedish manufacturer from the mildly incompetent clutches of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group (look, it wasn’t great…although out of that arrangement, Volvo came out best) and the brand has been cranking out some belting cars. The XC90 is brilliant (although we won’t see it here on these pages) and the Polestar variant of the S60 was a blinder.
The fact Geely owns Volvo and has done a great job with it feeds into the second reason it’s great – Geely clearly knows to leave things alone while injecting capital to make things happen. Lotus has had a bit of a revolving door of late. Since 1996, Lotus been owned by Malaysia’s DRB-HICOM (which owns Proton, another part of the deal).
Recent Lotus history
From 1986 GM owned Lotus and wasted lanveryone’s time (a pattern will emerge). Mad and loveable Romano Artioli bought the brand in 1993 while at the same time owning Bugatti. Artioli threw money at Lotus and the company duly delivered with the Elise, still in production today and better than ever.
When ol’ Romano ran out of cash, Proton stepped in and bought the company. Heads were duly scratched, but the company’s engineering arm was the point of the purchase, to help sort out Proton cars and make them ready for prime time. Proton’s money dried up, just like GM’s. Although the Elan went back into production in limited numbers for a while. That was slightly crazy, and not just because Kia built it.
Even crazier were the Lotus badges slapped on the back of Protons, although the Satria GTi was alright.
Lotus has soldiered on for years, spinning new cars off the Elise platform, the Exige and Evora and doing things no car maker with such a small budget should. The Tesla Roadster and Hennessy Venom GT were also built on Elise underpinnings, so it’s obviously a quality bit of kit.
Danny Bahar came over from Ferrari, kicked out five concept cars and completely embarrassed himself before being removed from his post for allegedly being very naughty. Which was good, because his ideas were in direct contravention of Lotus’ decades of history and tradition.
What will Geely do?
The deal includes 49 percent of DRB-HICOM (i.e. Proton) and a controlling 51 percent stake in Lotus.
If I was to speculate, this is what I think will happen:
- New Elise
- Switch to Volvo powertrains
- New Evora
- New Exige
- New something
Lotus will be able to raid Volvo’s extensive parts bin, which includes some excellent turbo and twin-charged four-cylinder engines. Then there’s the hybrid powertrain…
The new Elise will probably be more like Alfa Romeo’s lively 4C, so a carbon tub with a properly nutty four-cylinder turbo.
Money has been tight for the last decade, so Geely will hopefully be the great lifeline the company needed.
I am extremely pleased. I can’t wait to see what happens.
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.