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Market Insight: Lotus on the sales ladder

Lotus bloom: More Lotus variants with automatic transmissions, like the Evora IPS, will help drive volume in Australia.

New Lotus importer Ateco hopes to get closer to mainstream status with its new brand

16 Sep 2011

SYDNEY-BASED vehicle importer Ateco Automotive Group aims to sell 100 Lotus sportscars in the next 12 months now that it has taken the reins from the British sportscar brand’s previous distributor, Proton Cars Australia.

If Ateco achieves its ambitious target – almost doubling the 2010 sales tally of 53 units – it will be the highest sales volume Lotus has achieved in Australia, having previously peaked at 90 units in 2007.

Despite Lotus’s history as a highly niche brand with an average of fewer than 52 sales per year in Australia since the turn of the century, Ateco public relations manager for Lotus cars in Australia Edward Rowe told GoAuto sales are expected to quickly exceed those of Ferrari – for which Ateco Group became importer in 2005 and achieved a record 163 sales 2008.

“Lotus will overtake Ferrari volume some time next year or early the following year and that’s entirely to be expected because it’s in a much larger volume sector of the market,” said Mr Rowe, who cited Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz as targets for conquest sales.

Mr Rowe said volume above 100 units a year is essential because Ateco is conscious of the need to increase throughput to levels that ensure dealer profitability in preparation for the arrival of the more upmarket ‘new era’ cars previewed at Paris last year and will begin arriving in Australia from late 2013, starting with the new Esprit supercar.

128 center imageFrom top: Lotus Evora S, Lotus Elise, Lotus Exige S, Lotus Evora GTE.

“We have to ensure that the Lotus dealers in Australia are not only running a successful business based on the current vehicles, they have to have a good enough business now to start making the investment ready for the arrival of the new era vehicles.

“We have to make the current business entirely viable and successful but also start preparing the ground so the dealerships have the people, the facilities, the service levels and so on ready to meet the expectations of the customers who will come in and buy those new era vehicles.” Ateco wasted little time in repositioning the Lotus line-up to offer more value for money and greater choice after it officially announced it had become importer in August.

Deep price cuts across the range were complemented by more standard equipment and additional variants.

The new variants will keep coming too, with the unveiling at the recent Frankfurt motor show of an Evora S and Elise variants with automatic transmissions, plus a redesigned, re-engineered V6-powered Exige and a race-bred Evora GTE flagship – although the latter two are subject to overcoming ADR compliance issues.

Mr Rowe said the automatic transmissions will be “very, very significant” in boosting Australian Lotus sales, adding that said Ateco expects the automatic Evora will “account for the vast majority of sales because the smaller, cheaper Elise remains a “relatively specialist vehicle”, even with a self-shifting transmission.

Sales of Lotus cars in Australia have been declining since May 2007, in which 12 were sold, making it the brand’s second-best month in the past decade after June 2005 when 18 found homes.

So far this year, 25 Lotus cars have been sold, a 37.5 per cent decrease on last year.

Mr Rowe said Ateco’s modest total for the full year – which will represent a 24.5 per cent decline over last year – was due to the transition period between importers.

“We knew that coming would be these substantial changes in price and spec,” he said.

“Therefore we had to ensure that all of the outgoing stock had been retailed within Australia before we started ordering new vehicles, which essentially meant there was a gap of more than six months in the middle of the year with no supply.” Ateco’s stewardship appears to be taking effect already as August was 2011’s best month for Lotus, with six sales made.

Mr Rowe said these were the first of the Ateco cars, all of which went to straight to customers – and the next shipment have been “snapped up” by dealers to sell as retail cars, “because of the sharp new pricing and spec”.

“Our target is to have 40 by the end of the year and realistically that’s going to be restricted by supply and then next year we’re going to pick up,” he added.

Lotus promises to be a brand to watch out for, as just 12 months after former Ferrari executive Danny Bahar took control in the UK, it rolled out a staggering five-strong array of concepts at the 2010 Paris motor show that signalled a move upmarket.

As GoAuto has reported, Ateco’s general manager for Lotus Glen Sealey – who continues in a similar role for Maserati – plans to build the Lotus brand in Australia, backed by an advertising campaign that will not only increase awareness of Lotus and its wares, but as Mr Sealey put it, reduce the perceived risk to buyers and the need to explain to others their decision to buy a Lotus.

Mr Rowe said Ateco had already begun Lotus advertising, starting with directly contacting existing Lotus customers – who tend to be “big fans of the models” – to show them the new line-up and “invite them to come in and look at buying again”.

Ateco is also using digital advertising, which Mr Rowe said is “very cost effective, very targeted, and suits the sort of customers who buy Lotus cars”. Another format being used is colour gloss advertising in selected men’s lifestyle magazines.

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