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Lotus set to blossom

The Lotus M250: Coming in 2002

Lotus has big plans in Australia for its M250 "Porsche beater"

Lotus logo5 Dec 2000

MELBOURNE hotelier and businessman Bobby Zagame is the new 100 per cent owner of the rights to distribute Lotus sports cars in Australia.

And he has big plans for the legendary British marque, shooting for a significant boost in sales volume on the back of the 3.0-litre V6 coupe codenamed M250, which is due mid-2002.

Mr Zagame has bought out the other partners in former importer Monarch Motor Imports and set up Prestige Motor Imports, which is trading as Lotus Cars Australia.

Chris van Wyk has transferred from Monarch Motor Imports to be general manager. Headquarters have been shifted from North Melbourne to Zagame's headquarters in Ivanhoe.

Monarch Motor Imports was also the Australian distributor of Aston Martin and Lamborghini. Aston Martin factory is now operating directly with its Australian dealers, while former shareholders in Monarch Motor Imports, Andrew and James Smith have assumed Australian rights for Lamborghini.

It has been a whirlwind introduction to the car trade for Mr Zagame, who is a long-term car enthusiast but only bought into the car industry about 12 months ago.

Mr van Wyk said the prospect of growth for the marque courtesy of the M250 and the new generation Lotus Elise - which should arrive mid-2001 - was what prompted Mr Zagame's move into the business.

The M250 combines a 185kW Renault-sourced engine with a bonded aluminium chassis which keeps kerb weight below 1000kg to produce scintillating claimed performance: 0-100km/h in around 5.0 seconds and 0-160km/h in under 11.0 seconds.

"The importance of the M250 to us is that it is a more mainstream car in terms of day-to-day liveability," Mr van Wyk said.

"It is designed firstly to accommodate the 95th percentile US male - so big people will be able to drive it, it's easy to get in and out of and it will have a thing called air-conditioning, which is an innovation for those who are used to the Elise.

"Now the other thing about it is the product concept of that car is to offer better than Porsche 911 performance at a price a little above Boxster S, so we're talking about $145,000 as our best guess at this stage." Mr van Wyk said the initial target was to sell 100 M250s in a full year.

"It's not an unrealistic aim once we get production flowing, because what the car gives us is a product that we can put on the table to people who are considering buying a Porsche," he said.

"It's not as if we are going to knock Porsche off their perch by any means, but some people will consider our car." Mr van Wyk also forecast a growth in Elise sales to about 50 a year when the new car arrives, which will also be boosted by the fitting of standard air-conditioning. He is also hopeful that the hardcore Exige will surmount Australian Design Rules noise problems and also come to Australia.

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