More About Lotus
While the initial models did take a race car shape, but then the future models successfully managed to appeal to a wider audience. The company has gone through different ownerships over the years to keep itself alive. But today they have bounced back, still focusing on performance track vehicles. Following the current shift in the automotive industry towards more sustainable means of transportation, Lotus has taken a similar path by launching its first electric vehicle, the Lotus Evija. But Lotus does not intend to mass-produce this vehicle and keep it exclusive for the elite.
Even though the company officially formed in 1952, the foundations of it were being laid since 1948. Colin Chapman, who was a college student at the University College, London started to build his first race car, the Lotus Mark I, to compete in time trials. The trials were a form of off-road motorsports which were a race against time. Chapman did win a few of those in the following years which helped him generate income to work and build further vehicles and compete in bigger competitions. With multiple interactions, Chapman landed on the Mark VII in 1957 which was essentially a Formula car for the road. Surprisingly the Mark VII, or today known as just 7, is still in production under the name Caterham 7. To keep continuing racing, Chapman had to build his first production car, the Lotus Elite. The fiberglass body kept the vehicle light on its wheels along with a light rack and pinion steering which helps in easy and quick maneuvering of the vehicle. The company had sales success with the release of its Lotus Elan model in the early ’60s.
Chapman, The Founder
Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman, a structural engineer by profession found his passion in automobiles which led him to build his own car in 1948. For the initial years, Chapman made Lotus his side projects while still working first at the Royal Air Force and then at the British Aluminium Company. Finally, in the ’50s with all his time allotted to the Lotus Engineering Ltd., he designed multiple racing cars to race at local events. His innovative thinking leads him to tweak the vehicle at the functional level to get the best out of it. Rather than focusing on increasing power, he improved the handling by keeping the vehicle as light as possible. Chapman famously summarised this as "Adding power makes you faster on the straights. Subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere."
This innovation and passion lead to the entry of Team Lotus, the sister company of Lotus Engineering Ltd., in 1958. Within just two years, the team won its first Grand Prix in 1960 with Sir Stirling Moss behind the wheels. This was followed by the F1 World Constructors Championship in 1963 which put Team Lotus on the map of the greatest F1 teams along with Ferrari and McLaren. The team further went on to bag four more world titles along with a total of 79 Grand Prix wins from 1958 to 1994. By the mid-’90s the team’s performance deteriorated which made them uncompetitive in Formula 1. This lead to the end of Team Lotus’s journey in Formula 1 at the end of the 1994 season. The team tried to bounce back in the competition in the 2010 season. But just after two seasons, the team failed to make its mark and exited from Formula 1 for the second time in 2011.
On one hand, Team Lotus was having phenomenal success on the track, but the sales side of the company was on a decline. In the early 1980s, the sales of the company had dropped to a mere 383 from a previous 1200 units per year. As the world was in the middle of an economic recession, Lotus has lost in its key American market. This lead Chapman to go into collaboration with Toyota which saw the production of Mk1 Toyota Supra along with the launch of the new Lotus Excel at a lower price. To further capture the American market, a new division under the name Lotus Performance Cars Inc. was set up for the US market. This led to improved sales for the company.
But things took a different turn after the death of Chapman in 1982. With the DeLorean Motor company scandal, Lotus was already into trouble. Thus in 1983, David Wickins was appointed as the new chairman of the company. During this time the company brought in other investors to save it from the financial crisis. Even though things seemed to be stable for a while, by 1985 the company was again short on cash to invest in the production of the new models. Thus in 1986, Wickins oversaw the sale of the Lotus Group Companies to General Motors. Over the years the company saw changes in ownership from Gm to A.C.B.N Holdings in Luxembourg in 1993 to Proton, a Malaysian car company.
Currently, the Chinese Multinational Company, Geely, has a controlling stake in Lotus. The company has a total of five models in production. The Lotus Elise launched in 1996 along with the Lotus Exige launched in 2000, still manages to be in production. Over two decades and multiple iterations, these vehicle has emerged more powerful and a delight to drive on track while maintaining the exceptional handling dynamics of a real Lotus. The Lotus Evora joined the pack in 2008. This our seater sports car was a major redesigned vehicle from Lotus which carried forward its legacy. The standard Evora was replaced by the Evora 400 and Evora Sport 410 in 2016. The Evora GT430 became the fastest production car by the company with its launch in 2017. With the current focus on green transportation, Lotus has put its hands in the electric car market. They unveiled the Lotus Evija in 2019 with the production being started in 2020. Not everyone would be lucky enough to own this technological marvel as the company plans to produce just 130 units for now. This makes it one of the few exclusive electric sports hypercar which has taken the internet by storm with its futuristic design.