Just a little over a year after Lotus was bought by Chinese automaker Geeley, CEO Jean-Marc Gales is stepping down from the helm of the British sports-car legend. Lotus announced today that Feng Qingfeng, chief technical officer of Geeley, will step up as CEO, while Gales will become an advisor to chairman Daniel Donghui Li.
Gales told Autocar he's leaving Lotus for "personal reasons," adding it's "time to move on." The British publication reports that Gales will take on a new role leading , a classic car dealer and restorer.
It's hard to overstate Gales' importance at Lotus. Luxembourg native Gales—previously a board member at Peugeot Citroen— was brought on in 2014 and tasked with bringing the company to profitability for the first time in its history. He spearheaded development of new Elise, Exige, and Evora variants that increased performance while staying true to Lotus ideals. The cars launched under Gales are arguably among the best in Lotus history.
And Gales' strategy worked. Lotus sold 1600 cars in 2017, which might not sound like a lot, but it was enough to bring Lotus to profitability for the first time in the company's 70-year history.
Currently, Lotus is working on two new sports cars—one limited-production model with a carbon-fiber tub, and one based on a more-familiar aluminum chassis—and an SUV. Now, that development work will turn over to Feng, who Gales says good things about.
"He is a good guy and a good choice," Gales told Autocar. "He can unlock the synergies which exist between Volvo, Lynk & Co, Polestar and Lotus."
“I am honored to have been appointed to lead this iconic British sports car group," Feng said in a statement. "With Geely’s global synergies and total support I am confident that Lotus has an exciting opportunity to achieve its full potential as a luxury sports brand, based around its engineering legacy and its future product pipeline."
Speaking to Autocar, anonymous Geely sources hinted at what the Chinese company wants for Lotus.
"Lotus used to be ranked alongsideand . We need to come back to that rank again."