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Lotus SUV in Oz for 2020

In bloom: Lotus is developing an SUV that will be added to the line-up by the end of the decade, but it won’t look like the 2006 APX concept.

Porsche Macan in Lotus’ sights with upcoming mid-size crossover

1 Jun 2015

AUSTRALIA is in the mix for the upcoming Lotus SUV, with local distributor, Ateco Automotive, looking at securing the long-term viability of the brand in this country beyond the limited scope of sportscars.

In April this year Lotus Cars CEO Jean-Marc Gales confirmed the upcoming development of a lightweight SUV of roughly Porsche Macan dimensions that is due to be unveiled internationally at the end of this decade.

Ateco Automotive spokesperson Edward Rowe said expanding into the growing luxury SUV segment will help weather the ups and downs of the economy more effectively than at any time in Lotus’ past.

“It is a long-term strategy,” he told GoAuto at the media launch of the Exige S automatic in Sydney last week. “The SUV, we now know it is coming, and it is a very important part of the long-term planning because it will give long-term stability for future sales.

“Sportscars are cyclical in their appeal and sales – they go up and they go down with market sentiment. When the economy isn’t doing so well, sales suffer.

SUVs, we have found, are almost exactly the opposite.

“(The SUV means) a complete business plan with depth and timescale that is beneficial for the company globally.” The move into a fresh market segment by the British-based manufacturer is possible due to the agreement reached in mid-April between Lotus, its long-time owner Proton, and Chinese industrial giant Goldstar, which specialises in buses.

The joint-venture will see Lotus establishing a research and development as well as a manufacturing facility in China. The Lotus Group and Proton are subsidiaries of DRB-HICOM of Malaysia.

With preliminary work well under way, reports out of Europe reveal that Lotus is targeting a 1600kg maximum kerb weight for its first SUV, undercutting the equivalently sized Macan by upwards of 200kg. Mr Gales is on record as claiming that the vehicle will be the world’s first lightweight SUV.

Lotus’ decade-long reliance on Toyota-sourced engines and transmissions is likely to continue, with petrol-electric hybrid drivetrains expected to make it into the as-yet unnamed crossover. The hybrid powertrain may end up on the four-wheel drive version.

The production SUV will not be based on the 2006 APX Concept, an aluminium-bodied 5+2-seater wagon-crossover employing advanced assembly techniques like adhesive bonding, self-piercing rivets and flow-drill screws, and joining techniques called Riv-Bonding, designed to greatly cut the number of mechanical fixings within the monocoque structure, and significantly reduce tooling investment outlay.

Weighing in at 1570kg and powered by a Lotus-developed longitudinally mounted 3.0-litre supercharged V6, it was said to develop 224kW of power and 360Nm of torque.

That vehicle was meant to showcase the R&D capabilities of the Lotus Group.

Lotus is one of a number of premium brands adding SUVs to its roster following Porsche’s hugely successful introduction of the Cayenne high-riding wagon in 2003. Recently, Jaguar, Maserati, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini have all confirmed future SUVs for their respective line-ups.

After a dismal 2013, Lotus sales climbed 55 per cent for the 2014 fiscal year, reaching 2015 units globally. Mr Gales has stated that he wants to more than double that figure in a sustainable way by 2020, and hopes that the coming SUV will eventually take the brand beyond the 10,000-unit mark.

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