Lotus has confirmed that it’s developing a crossover model.
The British automaker’s CEO, Jean-Marc Gales, confirmed the news to Autocar and said that it will be “a real Lotus” and “the world’s first lightweight SUV.” Perhaps the bigger news is that the crossover will be built at an all-new Lotus factory in southeast China and will be heading to production in 2019. Despite manufacturing the vehicle in China, Gales was clear that Hethel, England will remain the company’s management and design hub as well as the manufacturing center for the three-tier sports car range.
The crossover will be the first result of a three-way joint venture between Lotus, its Malaysian owner Proton and Goldstar Heavy Industrial, a Chinese engineering and manufacturing company. Lotus hopes to capture part of the increasing SUV demand in China and will target the Porsche Macan, which sold about 30,000 units last year in China.
Expect the new crossover to follow in the footsteps of other Lotus models with a nameplate starting with the letter “E.” It will be differentiated from other competitors by its focus on fine steering and handling, in addition to its lightweight construction. If the vehicle does well in China, Lotus will turn its attention to other markets including Europe and Japan, where design and safety regulations are similar to China. As for the U.S., Gales admits that it would be more difficult to enter that market because of the changes needed but is aware that demand would help drive Lotus sales to over 10,000 units.
Powertrains under consideration for the crossover include the existing supercharged 1.8-liter engine or a 3.5-liter V6. If the crossover does end up in Europe, a Toyota-sourced diesel is a possibility, but Chinese consumers currently aren’t very keen on oil burners.
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