British Lotus cars soon to be labelled ‘Made in China’

For Lotus, this could mean a ramp up in production volumes and new models which could revive the British car brand and boost sales.

A Lotus car Source: Bloomberg

Chinese government documents have revealed British sports car brand Lotus’s plans to build a ¥9.0 billion (US$1.3 billion) factory with the capacity to manufacture 150,000 cars annually in China.

For Lotus, this could mean a ramp up in production volumes and new models which could revive the British car brand and boost sales. Lotus cars are currently produced in Norfolk, England.

In 2017, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group took a majority stake in the British brand, as part of the deal with struggling Malaysian carmaker Proton. Geely took a 49% stake in Proton, which included taking control of Proton’s Norwich-based subsidiary, Lotus, with a 51% stake.

Geely and Lotus said in a Reuters report that while Norfolk was Lotus’s manufacturing home, a key part of the firm’s strategy to revive the brand was by expanding its manufacturing footprint globally. ‘Details on additional locations and models will be confirmed in due course,’ the representatives added.

According to web documents posted by the planning authority of Hubei province, Wuhan, China, the authorities had approved Geely’s plans for the plant last month. The factory has the capacity to manufacture 150,000 cars annually, information from the documents showed.

Although no detail was given on when the plant would begin its operations, the facility is approved to build all-electric battery cars, electric hybrids as well as combustion engine cars like Lotuses.

Geely’s website also reflected 20 job openings to be based in Wuhan for the Lotus project.

A billion dollar revival

The Chinese owner was already mulling over pumping in an investment of at least 1.5 billion pounds (US$1.9 billion) to revive the iconic British brand, according to a Bloomberg report in August last year. The group was said to be planning to add production facilities and research centres for Lotus cars in the United Kingdom, sources had said.

Geely, which also controls Sweden’s Volvo Car Group and has a stake in Germany’s Daimler AG, is hoping to put Lotus on the global map as a luxury nameplate to compete with other luxury renowned car brands Porsche and Ferrari.

The carmaker forecasts flat sales this year in lieu of dwindling business affected by a weaker China economy. Last year, the Chinese auto market shrank for the first time in more than 20 years.

The first Lotus car was born in 1948. It is known as an iconic British producer of sports and racing cars. Lotus cars have been featured in James Bond movies such as ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ in 1977, and ‘For Your Eyes Only’ in 1981.

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