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Lotus distributorship handed to Ateco

Lotus position: Glen Sealey (pictured) becomes general manager for Lotus in Australia and New Zealand while maintaining leadership of Ateco Group stablemate Maserati.

Ateco aims to double Lotus sales in first 12 months as new importer and distributor

Lotus logo8 Aug 2011

SYDNEY-based Ateco Automotive plans an ambitious doubling of Lotus car sales to 100 over the next 12 months, having just become the official importer and distributor for the British sportscar brand in Australia and New Zealand.

Ateco’s new general manager for Lotus, Glen Sealey, told GoAuto that Lotus cars will become better value for money under Ateco and that the company aims to boost the brand’s presence Down Under in preparation for the arrival of its all-new model line-up starting with the Esprit supercar in late 2013.

The company also plans to set up the first official Lotus presence in New Zealand with a dealership in Auckland. Previously the only way of obtaining the cars there was through private imports.

Mr Sealey said Lotus will benefit from Ateco’s existing advertising, logistics and financial infrastructure plus its “strong expertise” in the niche luxury and sportscar markets.

Just 19 Lotus cars have been sold in Australia so far this year, a 42.4 per cent decline. Last year’s full-year total was just 53 and sales figures have been in decline since a peak of 90 units in 2007.

 center imageLeft: Lotus Elise and Exige.

Mr Sealey attributes this year’s sales drop-off in part to previous importer Lotus Cars Australia – an offshoot of Proton Cars Australia – having “pretty much stopped all expenditure” on the brand since its distributorship contract expired in March.

“But if I look at the sales rate … it hasn’t been trending in the right direction, either,” he said.

Ateco’s plan to turn Lotus around in Australia will be achieved by rebuilding the brand and repositioning the products in terms of price and specification.

“The person who buys a Lotus will take less of a risk under our umbrella because of our advertising, because of our building of the brand,” said Mr Sealey.

“There’s less of a risk in purchasing a Lotus and there’s less of a reason to explain why you bought a Lotus … because it becomes more accepted in the marketplace.”

Four of the five existing Australian Lotus dealers already have a relationship with Ateco and its subsidiary European Automotive Imports through its other brands, which include Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Ferrari, Fiat and Maserati plus burgeoning Chinese makes Chery and Great Wall.

“It is an advantage,” said Mr Sealey. “They know us as a group, they know how we operate. We won’t be changing anything with that dealer network – certainly for the time being. We plan on giving them every opportunity to make Lotus work for them as well as us.”

From a customer perspective, Mr Sealey said Lotus owners can look forward to organised Lotus drive days and a better dealer experience.

“Our aim in the first 12 months is to sell 100 cars, from September to September – or at least take 100 orders.

“We see year one as getting (sales volume) to a reasonable level, year two to build on that and then year three the new models will start to come through.

“So for us it’s really two years of building the brand equity in this marketplace, looking at the dealer network and getting the brand ready to accept something like the Esprit when it arrives.”

Ateco’s Lotus model line-up will consist of the Exige, Elise and a re-launched Evora.

The base Exige will have a supercharged 161kW engine with an optional performance pack to take that up to 176kW. Ateco will also be bringing in a “limited number” of 191kW flagship variants.

Naturally-aspirated and supercharged variants of the Elise will be offered, but the Elise Cup Racer that debuted at Geneva is not on the agenda for now.

Mr Sealey said Ateco will “completely re-launch” the Evora, which sold just two units in 2009 and eight in 2010 and was manual-only, rendering it “not on the radar”.

Ateco plans to offer a six-speed automatic transmission with the existing naturally aspirated model while introducing the supercharged Evora S as the brand’s flagship offering.

“Depending on the year manuals are anywhere between 15 and 20 per cent of the segment,” said Mr Sealey. “So to open up 80 per cent of it with an automatic transmission is going to be beneficial.”

The move to establish the Lotus brand in New Zealand is expected to contribute “between 12 and 15 per cent” of Ateco’s total allocation once the brand and supporting dealer network is up and running.

“We haven’t made an appointment in New Zealand so we still need to do the research, get the right partner and put that in place,” said Mr Sealey.

He said Ateco has hired a brand-specific team to look after sales, marketing and aftersales for Lotus but that the resultant increase in sales will be managed within the company’s existing infrastructure.

“A hundred cars, when you look at how many cars we import overall, is not a lot more and that’s really the case with all the back-end functions. In terms of logistics, it falls within the logistics of the Ateco Group.”

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