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Lotus Australia targets 100-plus sales by 2019

Exotic flair: Despite a line-up consisting of the ageing Elise, Exige and Evora, Lotus Cars Australia reckon they can snag over 100 sales next year.

Marketing push and new limited editions to drive local Lotus growth

5 Mar 2018

LOTUS Cars Australia chief operating officer Richard Gibbs has declared the British car-maker will aim to consistently achieve 100-plus annual sales from 2019, which would be a record high for the beleaguered sportscar brand locally.

Although it has been a year and a half since the independent Sydney-based dealer Simply Sports Cars (SSC) assumed the distributorship of Lotus from Ateco Automotive, Mr Gibbs called out 2017 as “the first calendar year that we were in control of our own destiny” and the first in four that sales were not in decline.

After recording just 31 sales in 2016 – Lotus’ lowest performance since 2001 – a refreshed five-strong dealership network, increased marketing and additional special-edition models helped double the performance to 62 units last year.

Now, Mr Gibbs said, the target figure would be 100-plus by 2019 and at least 75 sales in 2018, which Lotus has only managed three times before in 1997 (77), 2004 (81) and 2007 (90).

In 2008 however, sales fell to 70 units, and tallied between 58 and 69 from 2009 to 2012. The decline then set in from 2013 (71), to 2014 (61), 2015 (48) and 2016 (31).

“Our biggest reward to date has been stopping a four-year or even a five-year decline in year-on-year sales, we have stopped it, we have turned it around and we have managed to achieve 100 per cent growth,” Mr Gibbs told GoAuto in an interview at the Simply Sports Cars Sydney dealership in Artarmon last week.

“This year we are very much looking to try and get to about 75 cars across the network, which is not 100 per cent growth, but it is continuing growth. And we picked that number looking at previous results, what the plans are for the dealers this year, looking at what is coming through in terms of new models et cetera. It ought to be achievable and maybe we can overachieve on that a bit.

“Our longer term objective is to have year-on-year sustainable figures that are three digits. It will probably have a one at the front if we are realistic with ourselves, so over 100 cars … is where we’re aiming to be.

“We treat 2017 calendar year as the first start, so it is a three-year plan, and we’d be hoping to hit out 100-plus cars somewhere around the year 2019.”

Although China’s Geely purchased a controlling stake in Lotus Cars from Malaysia’s Proton last year, closing a 20-year run of consistent ownership, Mr Gibbs said an “expected” new line-up of models would not appear for two years and that it would be up to the existing Elise, Exige and Evora to drive growth.

“We are confident, based on the communications that are coming to us, that we are going to see some new product in the coming years, we don’t have a timeline on that yet (but) we are thinking it’s a couple of years away,” Mr Gibbs said.

“So I think our business plan at the moment is centred around working with what we’ve got and variant refinements of that, and I guess you have seen over the last 12-to-18 months what Lotus have been doing is quite a lot of variant refinement with some special-release additions and so forth.”

The Lotus Cars Australia chief operating officer added that six of 10 requested Exige 430 Cup flagships had been accounted for locally so far, while four of the 60 global units of the limited edition Evora GT 430 flagships will be imported.

Asked whether the ageing status of the Elise roadster, Exige coupe and Evora 2+2 coupe – the latter being the newest model having emerged in 2009 – was a limitation to achieving more significant sales growth, however, Mr Gibbs replied: “Yes, potentially, but we have been able to deal with it.

“At least we knew what we had and we were just able to work with what we had and we sold what we had,” he said.

“The latest refinements over the last 12 months, the models have been quite good, we’ve been able to position those in market quite well and people have understood where they are.”

While the Elise Sport starts at $74,990 plus on-road costs, the Exige Sport 350 costs near-double at $139,500 and the $189,900 Evora 400 now stretches up to the $259,990 Evora GT 430.

Mr Gibbs added that positioning Lotus as a driver’s car brand, keying into marketing opportunities around owner track days, and focusing on small-player personalised service, has aided the credibility of the British car-maker in the eyes of sportscar buyers – 50 per cent of which were last year new to the brand.

“It’s always been the view that it’s a three-year hard work plan to get us to a point where the Lotus now is there on the shopping list of potential vehicles to buy from,” he continued.

“I really don’t think it was there two to three years ago. It disappeared off everyone’s radar. Our biggest challenge was, and always was going to be getting people to take the brand seriously again, so we spent a lot of time, effort and money bringing staff into Lotus Cars Australia to push the social presence of the brand bigger than it has ever been pushed before.

“(But) it was probably not as big a challenge as I originally thought it was going to be. I will base that comment on the fact that at least 50 per cent of our sales last year were new buyers to the brand.

“That is a metric I pay close attention to, because we do have a loyalist base, but that’s not where the longevity of this brand will exist, so we do need to net new customers, or conquests.

“We are up against the might of some quite large manufacturers who have significantly larger marketing budgets (so) we have to be careful with what we do, we have got to be smart about what we do with our money, and this is from the factory all the way down to use here in Australia, and I guess we have to punch above our weight.”

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