The auto brands Lotus has links with
Or should it be Lotus is the car company everyone wants to be associated with?
Either way, it’s great PR for the long-fledgling Norfolk brand, which suddenly has worldwide exposure it could never have imagined a year ago. If Lotus is eager for a bigger share of the limelight, it’s certainly getting its wish.
But given how every day seems to bring some sort of new Lotus linkup, it’s perhaps time for a recap: just what are the car firms whose name Lotus sits alongside today?
Well, here’s a list. Some are stronger than others, but all are focused on one thing – maximising the value of that world-famous Lotus roundel.
Colin Chapman would, I’m sure, be chuffed to bits.
Lotus road cars is the focus of huge investment, activity and interest. Parent company Group Lotus wants to become a supercar rival to Ferrari and Porsche: after the clumsy way it launched these intentions at the Paris Motor Show 2010, it is now slowly winning acknowledgement that the plans could have merit – and COULD actually work.
Renault, faced with falling market share, has pulled back on its F1 exposure in recent years. After selling a stake in the team to Genii Capital, Renault sold its remaining 25% stake to Group Lotus. The F1 cars are thus called ‘Lotus Renaults’.
Entrepreneur Tony Fernandes purchased the rights to use the ‘Lotus Racing’ name in 2009, successfully running the team in F1 last year. The team was renamed ‘Team Lotus’ for 2011. Group Lotus brought a court case against Fernandes this year, which culminated in the ruling that Fernandes can continue using the Team Lotus name. In the meantime, Fernandes also bought Caterham Cars. Team Lotus is now thus carrying ‘Caterham’ branding, just as the Renaults carry ‘Lotus’ branding.
Proton owns Lotus, and has used its British sports car division’s name on several models in the past. ‘Engineered by Lotus’ has graced the back of models such as the Proton Satria GTI, after it commissioned Lotus Engineering to re-engineer the cooking budget hatchbacks.
Youngman, a Chinese bus manufacturer, entered passenger car production with a new brand, Europestar. These were rebadged Protons, which Lotus Engineering developed into Chinese-market models with a series of revisions. Youngman, drawn to the allure of the Lotus brand, has been increasingly associating itself with (and marketing itself as) Lotus, despite the link being with Lotus Engineering, not Group Lotus.
Youngman-Lotus, in alliance with car distributor Pang Da, has secured a €245m equity stake in Saab and signed Memorandums of Understanding for further alliances subject to approval by authorities. Chinese interests in Saab are thus likely to grow, as further investments are made in the Swedish brand.
The Lotus name has links with yet more makers too: these are a bit more tech-specific but are still a rare public showcase of Lotus Engineering links with another manufacturer. Here’s a few examples:
The most well known recent Lotus collaboration: Lotus provides around 40% of the overall content of a Tesla Roadster, the world’s first electric sportscar. It doesn’t wear Lotus badges but even casual observers know the link.
Lotus Engineering was part of a collaboration that’s developed a hydrogen fuel cell taxi, led by cash from the government Technology Strategy Board. Lotus designed the full propulsion system, including the fuel cell engine.
The two worked together on the Limo-Green project that created a Jaguar XJ EREV. Lotus provided its 1.2-litre range-extender engine, created with funding from the TSB. This has three cylinders, 47hp, simple construction and weighs 56kg. It’s been designed specifically to drive an alternator, to generate electricity – and is thus better than the Chevrolet Volt’s car-derived 1.4-litre range-extender motor.
Quite a list. And these are just the public ones. Group Lotus’ consultancy division, Lotus Engineering works with many other car manufacturers besides, on below-the-line solutions to specific needs, most obviously in vehicle dynamics.
Lotus Engineering, for instance, is said to have worked on the latest Nissan GT-R, and also has long associations with GM/Vauxhall (the excellent Vauxhall Corsa VXR was Lotus Engineering-developed, and thus way better than the Vauxhall Corsa SRi it was derived from).
Frankly, Lotus is everywhere. It always has been – but the fact it’s so omnipresent hasn’t always been advertised so well. Finally, both the allure of and expertise behind the name are gaining recognition, which means lots are now keen for some of the Lotus limelight.
Not all these collaborations are perfect, but all of them DO have some genuine Lotus link in some way. Question is, which are the lasting Lotus links and which are the Lotus liabilities?
Group Lotus Motorsport designed the original Top Gear test track, which stars in reasonably priced cars have competed with The Stig upon for years. Now, the link is being reinforced: Lotus is designing the new Top Gear Live test tracks. Well, the links don’t have to be literal car ones…
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