Sale of Malaysian Proton Delays Future Lotus Models

Malaysian law compels buyer DRB-Hicom to make an offer to purchase all remaining Proton shares it does not presently own. This is preventing development work on five future Lotus models unveiled at the Paris auto show.

Herb Shuldiner 1, Correspondent

April 17, 2012

2 Min Read
Esprit now delayed until late 2014 in most markets and early 2015 in the US
Esprit now delayed until late 2014 in most markets and early 2015 in the U.S.

NEW YORK – Despite being limited to only one model in the U.S., the Evora, Lotus is ahead of last year's sales pace when it also offered the Elise and Exige.

The latter two vehicles no longer are available in the U.S. because they are not equipped with the advanced smart airbags now required by National Highway Transportation Safety Admin.

While declining to provide specific numbers, Kevin Smith, Lotus marketing communications manager, tells WardsAuto Lotus is ahead of 2011 deliveries while offering only naturally aspirated and supercharged Evora models.

Lotus sold 2,600 vehicles globally last year, with more than 500 in the U.S. Smith says the auto maker has a long-term goal of 7,000 units annually.

However, the expansion of its portfolio has been delayed by the recent sale of Lotus parent Proton to DRB-Hicom, which purchased the Malaysian government’s shares of the national auto maker last month.

DRB-Hicom now owns more than 50% of Proton shares. However, Malaysian law compels the company to make an offer to buy all remaining shares it does not presently hold. This is delaying development work on five future Lotus models unveiled at the 2011 Paris auto show.

The new Esprit now is delayed until late 2014 in most markets and until early 2015 in the U.S., Smith says. He also says it's not possible at this time to predict when the new Elan will debut. Indeed, the model could be renamed before it is launched.

The naturally aspirated Evora sells from $64,000 to the low $80,000s in the U.S. The supercharged version starts at $76,000 and ranges to $92,000. Lotus has 42 U.S. dealers, only one of whom is exclusive.

In addition to the new models, Lotus is developing a 4.8L naturally aspirated V-8 gasoline-direct-injection engine. The lightweight mill will have a minimum redline of 9,000 rpm and generate 570 hp and 620 ft.-lbs. (841 Nm) of torque. Smith doesn't yet know if it will be subject to the U.S. gas-guzzler tax.

There's also some hybrid technology, including regenerative braking and electric propulsion, in Lotus' future. Engineers plan to offer a control on the steering wheel that will enable drivers to add electric power to gasoline-engine output.

Smith says the hybrid model will feature the kinetic-energy-recovery system now used on Formula 1 cars.

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