Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. is mulling an investment of close to $1.9 billion to revive the iconic British sports car brand Lotus. Geely owns a 51% stake in Lotus and is in talks with its Malaysian partner Etika Automotive Sdn Bhd. which holds the rest of the shares to completely acquire the British maker of hardcore sports cars.
“Geely is fully committed to restoring Lotus into a leading global luxury brand,” the automaker said without divulging further details. The move is part of billionaire Li Shufu’s ambitious plan to see Geely rub shoulders with the biggest automotive conglomerates of today, i.e. Volkswagen AG and Toyota Motor Corp. Geely Group had acquired Volvo in 2010 and turned the ailing Swedish company’s fortunes around by investing $11 billion in the modernization of its factories. Today Volvo is a profitable business, spinning off an electric vehicle sub-brand in the form of Polestar. Li also emerged to be the prime stakeholder in Daimler AG with an almost 10 percent stake in the German automotive holding company.
Li Shufu wants something similar to happen with Lotus which has had a tedious history despite being one of the few manufacturers who competed in Formula motorsports. The first phase of investment will see Lotus expanding its Hethel, Norfolk factory by hiring 200 engineers. A second factory is also being planned, somewhere in the West Midlands region, along with a design and innovation facility in Coventry.
Geely aims to position Lotus as a luxury brand, rivalling equally iconic nameplates like Ferrari and Porsche. The British marque was not doing too well under the stewardship of Malaysian automaker Proton who had acquired it in 1996. Lotus’s total sales in England for 2018 until July stand at just 145 units. There has also been a 25% drop in sales according to statistics from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in London. The Chinese automotive giant’s support could very well see the British maker of some of the finest lightweight sports cars flourish and pave the way for a secure, exciting future.