Last month, Chinese automaker Geely bought a 51-percent stake in beloved British sports car builder Lotus, along with a 49.9-percent portion of its former owner, Malaysian automaker Proton. Now, that Geely chair Li Shufu is considering sending Lotus production to China.
Starting up Lotus production in China would echo a move made when Geely bought Volvo from Ford back in 2012. Volvo exports both the long-wheelbase S60 Inscription and the S90 from China to the US, while the rest of its lineup is currently produced in Europe.
Geely aims to turn Lotus into a consistently profitable brand, building on its recent success with the new Evora 400 and Evora Sport 410. Lotus has an all-new Elise and Exige in the pipeline too, as well as some sort of SUV, all intended for the US market, and thus, a broader customer base.
Geely helped bring Volvo back to being a major luxury car player in a very short time, giving us hope for Lotus's future. That said, Lotus is a very different automaker than Volvo, with cars that appeal to a much narrower customer base. And Lotus's long history of financial woes make us a little wary of its new owner's optimism. We've heard this tune before.
Moving production to China would be a big change for Lotus, killing the romantic notion of buying a sports car hand built somewhere in the English countryside. Ultimately, though, we'd rather have a Lotus built in China than no Lotus at all.
Geely brought Volvo back from the brink without diluting the Swedish brand's identity. We hope for the same for Lotus—regardless of where its cars are built.