Lotus Cars is a British manufacturer of sports and racing cars based at the former site of RAF Hethel, a World War II airfield in Norfolk. The company designs and builds race and production automobiles of light weight and fine handling characteristics.
Lotus is owned by Proton who took over after the bankruptcy of former owner Romano Artioli in 1994.
The company was formed as Lotus Engineering Ltd. by engineer Colin Chapman, a graduate of University College, London, in 1952. The first factory was in old stables behind the Railway Hotel in Hornsey, North London. Team Lotus, which was split off from Lotus Engineering in 1954, was active and competitive in Formula One racing from 1958 to 1994. The Lotus Group of Companies was formed in 1959. This was made up of Lotus Cars Limited and Lotus Components Limited which focused on road cars and customer competition car production respectively. Lotus Components Limited became Lotus Racing Limited in 1971 but the newly renamed entity ceased operation in the same year.
The company moved to a purpose built factory at Cheshunt in 1959 and since 1966 the company has occupied a modern factory and road test facility at Hethel, near Wymondham. This site is the former RAF Hethel base and the test track uses sections of the old runway.
Chapman died of a heart attack in 1982 at the age of 54, having begun life an innkeeper's son and ended a multi-millionaire industrialist in post-war Britain. The car maker built tens of thousands of successful racing and road cars and won the Formula One World Championship seven times. At the time of his death he was linked with the DeLorean scandal over the use of government subsidies for the production of the DeLorean DMC-12 for which Lotus had designed the chassis.
In 1986, the company was bought by General Motors. On 27 August 1993, GM sold the company, for £30 million, to A.C.B.N. Holdings S.A. of Luxembourg, a company controlled by Italian businessman Romano Artioli, who also owned Bugatti Automobili SpA. In 1996, a majority share in Lotus was sold to Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd (Proton), a Malaysian car company listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange.
The company also acts as an engineering consultancy, providing engineering development—particularly of suspension—for other car manufacturers. The lesser known Powertrain department is responsible for the design and development of the 4-cylinder Ecotec engine found in many of GM's Vauxhall, Opel, Saab, Chevrolet and Saturn cars. Today, the current Lotus Elise and Exige models use the 1.8L VVTL-i I4 from Toyota's late Celica GT-S and the Matrix XRS.
The company is organised as Group Lotus, which is divided into Lotus Cars and Lotus Engineering.
Michael Kimberley took over as Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Company and its Group from May 2006. He currently chairs the Executive Committee of Lotus Group International Limited ("LGIL") established in February 2006, with Syed Zainal Abidin (Managing Director of Proton Holdings Berhad) and Badrul Feisal (non-executive director of Proton Holdings Berhad). LGIL is the holding company of Lotus Group Plc.
Kimberley retired as CEO on 17 July 2009 and was replaced as CEO by Dany T Bahar on 1 October 2009. Bahar was formerly Senior Vice President, Commercial & Brand for Ferrari SpA where he was responsible for worldwide road car sales and after sales business, overall road car and F1 marketing activities, licensing, and merchandising business.
The four letters in the middle of the logo stand for the initials of Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman.
The company encouraged its customers to race its cars, and entered Formula One through its sister company Team Lotus in 1958. A Lotus Formula One car driven by Stirling Moss won the marque's first Grand Prix in 1960 at Monaco in a Lotus 18 entered by privateer Rob Walker. Major success came in 1963 with the Lotus 25, which — with Jim Clark driving — won Lotus its first F1 World Constructors Championship. Clark's untimely death — he crashed a Formula Two Lotus 48 in April 1968 after his rear tyre failed in a turn in Hockenheim — was a severe blow to the team and to Formula One. He was the dominant driver in the dominant car and remains an inseparable part of Lotus' early years. That year's championship was won by Clark's teammate, Graham Hill.
Lotus is credited with making the mid-engined layout popular for IndyCars, developing the first monocoque Formula One chassis, and the integration of the engine and transaxle as chassis components. Lotus was also among the pioneers in Formula One in adding wings and shaping the undersurface of the car to create downforce, as well as the first to move radiators to the sides in the car to aid in aerodynamic performance, and inventing active suspension.
Even after Chapman's death, until the late 1980s, Lotus continued to be a major player in Formula One. Ayrton Senna drove for the team from 1985 to 1987, winning twice in each year and achieving 17 pole positions. However, by the company's last Formula One race in 1994, the cars were no longer competitive. Lotus won a total of 79 Grand Prix races. During his lifetime Chapman saw Lotus beat Ferrari as the first team to achieve 50 Grand Prix victories, despite Ferrari having won their first nine years sooner.
Lotus car models
- Lotus Elise: The Elise started in 1996 and weighed 725 kg. The current model starts at 901 kg and incorporates some engineering innovations, such as an aluminum extrusion frame and a composite body shell. The Elise has also spawned several racing variants, including a limited series called the 340R, which has an open-body design echoing the old Seven. The Elise was introduced into the U.S., with a Toyota engine, in order to pass strict U.S. emissions laws. The 1ZZ & 2ZZ Toyota engines used have a Lotus ECU with their own fuel mapping. The supercharged Lotus SC and limited edition Jim Clark Type 25 Elise editions add a new performance dimension to the Elise range. 0–60 mph acceleration is in 4.3 seconds and 0–100 km/h in 4.6 seconds.
- Lotus Exige: A version of the Elise with a redesigned body to provide additional downforce (100 lb at 100 mph). Additionally, the following Elise Sport Pack and Hardtop options are standard on the Exige. The car is street legal and the base 2006 model was available in the USA for $50,990. Lotus updated the Exige with the supercharged Exige S in 2007.
- Lotus Exige S: An Exige with a supercharged engine providing 220 hp. The non-S Exige and Elise have 190 hp (140 kW).
- Lotus Evora Launched 22 July 2008. Code named Project Eagle during development. A 2+2 sports car with a mid mounted, transverse 3.5 litre V6 engine.
- Lotus 2-Eleven Weighing just 670 kg (1,500 lb) and with 252 bhp (188 kW) the Lotus 2-Eleven can sprint from 0–60 in 3.8 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph (249 km/h). Intended as a track day car it costs £39,995 but for an additional £1,100 Lotus will make the car fully road legal.
- Lotus T125 Exos Track-only Formula 1 inspired car. 3.5l Cosworth V8, 640 bhp; 25 will be built at $1 million each. To run in the 'Exos Experience by Lotus', a club, initiated and operated by Lotus Motorsport, in which a limited number of owner drivers can refine their driving skills and challenge themselves with expert one-to-one advice from former Grand Prix drivers and trainers.
Lotus plans to enter the electric vehicle race, CEO Michael Kimberley told the Financial Times . "Don’t be surprised to see an electric Lotus shortly,” he said, adding that a concept version could debut as early as March 2009, at Geneva Motor Show. Lotus is now front and center in the electric-car arena.
Lotus did not reveal details about the car or the engine but discloses that it will go for 300 to 400 miles (640 km) and it will really live up to the expectations of being one of the best electric cars in the world.
Lotus joined Jaguar Cars, MIRA Ltd and Caparo on a luxury hybrid executive sedan project called "Limo-Green"--funded by the UK Government Technology Strategy Board. The vehicle will be a series plug-in hybrid.
- Lotus Eco Elise is an engineering demonstrator of its classic sports car that incorporates solar panels into a roof made from hemp, while also employing natural materials in the body and interior of the car.
- Lotus Exige 265E Bio-fuel
- Lotus Exige 270E Tri-fuel
- Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid. Shown at the 2010 Geneva Motor show
- Lotus Concept City Car. Shown at the 2010 Paris motor show.
Tesla Motors, a likely rival for Lotus if its plans go through, has also turned to contractors for parts of the all-electric Roadster. Of note however, is the fact that Tesla currently obtains the chassis for their Roadster from Lotus as do Dodge for their EV because of the heavy weight of the batteries in an EV and Lotus's widely known low weight and sharp handling characteristics. While only 10% of the parts of the Tesla Roadster are shared with the Lotus Elise, Lotus is responsible for approximately 40% of the overall content of the car.