Denise McCluggage: 1927-2015 We remember Denise McCluggage from happier times shown here with Andy Funk of KTR Motorsports
New Lotus crossover to take on Porsche Macan
Radical sports crossover will launch in 2019 to take on Porsche's Macan, and will be built in China by Steve Cropley 28 April 2015 A revolutionary Lotus five-door crossover is being developed at top speed at the company’s Hethel design studios. It is described by CEO Jean-Marc Gales as “a real Lotus” and “the world’s first lightweight SUV” and will be made in an all-new Lotus factory in south-east China. The new car is tipped for production in 2019 and is very likely to become the best-selling model in Lotus’s 67-year history. However, Gales is clear that Hethel will remain Lotus’s management and design hub and continue as the manufacturing centre for its three-tier sports car range. Sales of improved Elise, Exige and Evora models expanded by 55% to just over 2000 last year and are tipped to beat 3000 this year. The crossover is the first fruit of a three-way joint venture between Lotus, its Malaysian owner Proton and Goldstar Heavy Industrial, a Chinese engineering and trading company. The aim is to take advantage of exploding SUV demand in China, especially in the C-segment, where sales recently topped three million. Porsche’s Macan is selling at a rate of around 30,000 units a year in China and is tipped to reach 50,000 in a couple of years. The launch of the new Lotus SUV represents the third phase of Gales’s ambitious but believable development plan revealed about a year ago. The first phase, nearly achieved, was to take sales beyond 2000 units in the first year and get trading into the black. The second is to press towards 4000 sports car sales, with further improved versions of the current models coming fairly soon. The third, planned for the end of the decade when the SUV and all-new versions of the sports cars hit the market, is to beat 10,000 units. Encouraged by early progress, Gales is already dreaming of a stage four. The new crossover will bow to Lotus tradition by having a name beginning with ‘E’. It will aslo offer 4x4 capability, at least as an option, like most of its class rivals.However, it will differ from the rest by being both lighter and faster, says Gales, with more emphasis than any rival on fine steering and handling. After satisfying initial demand in China, Lotus will consider launching the model in Europe and Japan, where design and safety legislation is relatively similar to China’s. US sales would be a more difficult proposition, Gales says, because of the modifications needed. He acknowledges that demand for the SUV could eventually drive total Lotus sales beyond 10,000 but is anxious “not to run before we can walk”.
As our sketches show, the new crossover uses familiar design cues in a new way, with a new grille treatment that alludes lightly to famous Lotus models of the past and clearly suggests light weight and high performance. The new Lotus is expected to be a fairly low-riding model, similar in length and wheelbase to the Macan and Audi Q5 but about 3cm lower (to get the centre of gravity down) and a shade wider. Lotus says the low roofline can be achieved without compromising the generous rear cabin space that is essential in a car for the Chinese market.
BODY and CHASSIS
Details are still being worked out, but the new crossover is likely to have a steel monocoque inner structure clad with unique composite and aluminium outer body panels. “There may be some Proton parts, of course, but that’s nothing unusual,” said Gales. “You can find VW parts in a Lamborghini.” The combination of a relatively light body and chassis components, plus forged alloy components for its (likely) all-independent double-wishbone suspension, should enable the Lotus SUV to weigh about 200kg less than key rivals. “Lightness, driving purity, design and a certain unconventional quality — these are all core Lotus values,” said Gales. “At present, there’s nothing on the market that fits the description. Our car will drive beautifully. It will be supple and comfortable but the emphasis will be on handling. It will be the lightest and fastest of its class on the track.”
The joint-venture partners have yet to make a firm decision on powertrain type and layout, but Gales said Lotus has recently strengthened its long-standing co-operation with Toyota over engines and gearboxes in its other models. The strongest likelihood, he said, is that the new crossover will use powertrains similar to the supercharged 1.8-litre in-line four and 3.5-litre V6 engines in today’s sports cars. No diesel version is planned for the early years simply because oil-burners aren’t popular in China. But if the car came to Europe, Toyota would have a suitable diesel to offer. Toyota already allows Lotus considerable scope to modify its engine’s electronics, induction and exhaust systems, and the practice is likely to continue.The new Lotus will offer four-wheel drive but won’t be a dyed-in-the-wool off-roader, Gales said. Engineers are still evaluating likely mechanical layouts, but Gales said a transverse engine is most likely for packaging reasons. Further out, a hybrid 4x4 system could be adopted. China’s authorities are asking that new cars late this decade should include “a hybrid element”. One interesting 4x4 solution would be to have the front wheels engine-driven and the rears propelled by independent electric motors.
The new joint venture will take about six weeks to ratify, Gales said, and a year - perhaps even two - for China’s government to grant a manufacturing licence. Chinese rules require the authorities to see a prototype before they grant this licence. That, Gales said, makes the next few months’ workload clear. “Let’s get the design right, then make a prototype,” he said. “Let’s make it beautiful and very light. Then we’ll have an SUV like nothing else in the world.”
Why this won't be the first Lotus SUV
Lotus has already designed a sporty lightweight C-segment SUV, dubbed project APX (for Advanced Performance Crossover) as a way of showing off a revolutionary method of flexible manufacture. The car, a concept at the 2006 Geneva show, had a 3.0-litre V6 and a basic structure consisting of alloy corner castings connected by extruded aluminium beams. The system allowed a car’s width and wheelbase to be adjustable over a wide range. Lotus also launched the Youngman-Lotus T5 SUV in Beijing three years ago (when Chinese importer Youngman was selling Lotus-badged Protons in China). It shows a clear relationship with the APX concept. Proton and Lotus have since ended their Youngman deal in favour of Goldstar, with whom they plan to build the new Lotus SUV. Under the circumstances, it’s not difficult to understand why the joint venture seeks an authentic ‘by Hethel’ look for their 2019 model. Q&A with Jean-Marc Gales, CEO of Group Lotus PLC Is this the beginning of a plan to relocate Lotus in Asia? “Certainly not. We have always said that the company’s headquarters will be right here in Hethel, where the cars are designed and the sports cars are built. We are not exporting one job to China. In fact, we are currently hiring more people to cope with expanding sports car production.” What’s the big benefit of building cars in China? “We’re close to the world’s biggest market for these cars, for one thing. Better still, making a car in this volume means we will encourage a supplier community and will be able to use expensive, out-of-sight components — infotainment modules, wiring looms, HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] — for the new generation of sports cars.” How big is Chinese SUV demand? “It’s absolutely huge. Six million SUVs will be sold in China this year, and more than half of those are C-segment models. That figure is forecast to rise to eight million in four years. C-segment SUV sales alone will be bigger than the entire German market.” Surely this means you’ll do much better than the 6000 to 7000 Lotus SUV sales you seem to be tipping? “If we did, that would be phase four of our development plan. We’re still completing phase one. Let’s not run before we can walk.”
Lotus Evora 400 debuts at the Geneva Motorshow Tuesday, March 3, 2015 - 19:00 Fastest and most powerful production Lotus ever Lighter and more efficient than before Legendary benchmark Lotus handling Unveiled today by Tun Dr Mahathir, Chairman of Lotus, Dato Harith, CEO of PROTON and Jean-Marc Gales, Lotus CEO. About the Lotus Evora 400 The new Lotus Evora 400 is the latest pure and focused supercar from Lotus, combining high performance with the legendary Lotus benchmark handling. It is faster and dynamically more capable than the previous Lotus Evora leading to greater agility and a more involving drive. Maximum speed is 186 mph (300 km/h) and acceleration 0-60 mph is just 4.1 seconds (0-100 km/h in 4.2 seconds). This enables the new Lotus Evora 400 to lap the challenging test track at the Lotus Headquarters in Hethel, Norfolk, a scintillating SIX seconds faster than the previous model. Over two thirds of the Lotus Evora 400 is new, including its supercharged and charge-cooled mid- mounted 3.5-litre V6 engine producing 400 horsepower and 410 Nm of torque. A new aluminium chassis incorporates a new interior and the lightweight composite body has changed significantly both front and rear. Following the core values of the company, not only is the new Lotus Evora 400 faster than the previous model, it is also 22 kg lighter, achieved through careful and clever design and attention to detail. This weight reduction is even more impressive considering that the supercar has more power and a higher standard specification than before. In describing the remit for the new Lotus Evora 400, Jean-Marc Gales, Chief Executive Officer for Group Lotus plc, states, “A requirement for all Lotus cars is to be a benchmark for handling, to be the quickest car from A to B and to provide the driver with a pure and involving driving experience. The Evora 400 is the fastest road-going Lotus that we have ever produced, possessing performance that can only be matched by cars costing significantly more. It delivers supercar looks allied to supercar performance.” Jean-Marc Gales continues, “We have always said that to make a car better, you must make it faster and lighter. We have achieved this, of course, but we didn’t stop there, as the considerable number of changes in the interior, chassis, engine and body design have warranted emphatically, the title of a new Lotus Evora. The new Lotus Evora 400 will enter production for European markets in the summer and deliveries will commence in August this year. North American markets will receive the Evora 400 as a 2016 model year presentation in the Autumn. Combined production for all Lotus models, the Elise, Exige and Evora, will increase to 70 cars per week by September 2015 and an additional 150 highly skilled operators and craftsmen and women will be recruited in the next four months to accommodate this rise in production. From left to right: Tun Dr Mahathir, Jean-Marc Gales and Dato Harith From left to right: Dato Harith and Tun Dr Mahathir
Can Lotus Blossom Again? This story appears in the February 9, 2015 issue of Forbes. Jean-Marc Gales, the newly recruited CEO of Group Lotus Plc., arrived in Norfolk, England last May with a simple but daunting mission: to restore the once mighty British automaker as a supercar superpower. For the past few decades Lotus has been seriously stalled while its main rivals–Ferrari, Porsche, McLaren–have shot past them in auto racing, production vehicles, engineering services and profit. The past two years alone Lotus has seen nearly $400 million in losses. Since 1998, Lotus has had only four profitable years. The 52-year-old Gales began his career leading Volkswagen fleet sales, followed by a stint managing Mercedes global marketing before he claimed the presidency of Peugeot in 2009. An acute technocrat steeped in the hard business of selling large numbers of vehicles, at midcareer Gales has a surprising sense for the entrepreneurial. And apparently a fearless heart. Walking the Lotus facility last May, Gales performed combat triage, asking his engineers for products to execute and market within a year. His goal: to unveil the next generation of Lotus vehicles at the Geneva auto show in March of 2015. With the engineers revving, Gales shook the financials. “It required painful decisions,” he admits. “It does not take 1,250 employees to produce 1,296 cars–an unsustainable condition.” He let go of 25% of the workforce. Gales then put on his salesman’s hat. “The dealer network was extremely spotty. We had no dealer in Paris, no dealer in London, no dealer in Cannes or Milan, Abu Dhabi–no dealers where there are people with the money to buy our cars.” He signed up 25 new dealers and by year’s end will have another 50. Voting with their own money, dealers have agreed to buy vehicles and spare parts for cash, and self-fund build-out of their dealerships, boosting Lotus’ cash flow. “The dealers are so confident that they are carrying the investment themselves,” Gales explains. “Dealer network expansion is essential for driving volume above 3000 cars a year. The average Lotus dealer, and it is prudent to stick with an average here, sells 20 new Lotus cars and around $80,000 in spare parts a year.” Lotus Evora will be the basis of multiple new products to arrive in 2015 and ’16. Why are dealers willing to put up cash for a brand few people beyond sports car enthusiasts recognize or understand? A brand that has swayed from one financial disaster to another most of its existence? The power of mythology, the promise of new products, a changing regulatory landscape that demands more efficient vehicles, and a no-nonsense CEO. Mythology begins with Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman (his four initials are incorporated into the Lotus badge), who founded the company in 1952 in a London horse barn. By 1963 Lotus had soundly beaten Ferrari, Porsche, Cooper and BRM to secure its first of six Formula One World Drivers and seven Constructors championships. Lotus also introduced rear-engine design to the Indy 500, eventually winning in 1965, forever changing American motor sports. Always the entrepreneur, in 1968 Chapman brought cigarette sponsorship to Grand Prix racing, which helped make him a millionaire and changed the face of all motor sports forever. The team’s last major success came in 1978, with Mario Andretti at the wheel of a Lotus Grand Prix racer that perfected the concept of “ground effects,” the car an inverted wing that literally sucked itself onto the track, allowing it to corner at shockingly high speeds. Andretti and Lotus claimed World Championships that year. Since the 1960s, Lotus has been headquartered at a former RAF bomber base in Norfolk, not far from the English Channel. The handling course that has given rise to so many balanced chassis includes portions of the old bomber runways. Away from the track, Lotus developed giant slayers, innovative but quirky sports cars built on the principles of Colin Chapman: Simplify, then make it lighter. Always diminutive, and with rare exception powered by engines first from Ford, then GM and now Toyota, Lotus cars were all about brain wave steering and handling. Despite some renown in the late 1970s–James Bond’s amphibious Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me–by 1982 the company was selling only a few hundred cars a year and was propped up by an IP agreement with Toyota made not long before Chapman’s death at age 54. In spite of new-found income generated by providing big car companies with engineering services, much as current Formula One teams McLaren and Williams are starting to do, without the founding entrepreneur guiding the company, Lotus faded fast. After seven years of ownership GM sold its stake in 1993. In do-or-die fashion, Lotus developed Elise, the first production car built of bonded aluminum. Sheets and spars of aluminum are pressed, twisted and extruded into precise shapes, then chemically “glued” or “bonded” together. A form of industrial origami, the process results in strong, lightweight cars. Elise was a lightning bolt 20 years ago, so stunning that Ford engaged Lotus to develop the vertical horizontal (VH) architecture that underpins all Aston Martins. But until now Lotus lacked the resources to mutate its own car, the mid-engine Evora, into a range of products. Prior to Gales there was another bold attempt to revive the company, but it quickly failed. In 2010 Lotus’ Malaysian parent company, Proton, appointed former Red Bull and Ferrari executive Dany Bahar as CEO. Bahar recruited a Mercedes-AMG powertrain engineer, and designers from Ferrari. A flashy marketing executive accustomed to Red Bull’s outsize marketing budgets, Bahar had a plan long on bravado and Central European sensibilities, but short of achievable goals. Bahar correctly identified that matters had to change, but his tenure ended in 2012 with acrimony and a flurry of legal battles. Soon after Proton was absorbed by its Malaysian rival, DRB-HICOM. “The financial situation was dire for several years,” Gales admits, “with losses of $255 million in 2012-13 and $108 million in 2013-14. We had to take action to quickly turn this situation around. It was part of my brief from the owners, DRB-HICOM and Proton as well as to become operationally cash flow positive in 2015 and profitable in 2016.” Giving cheer to sports car purists, Gales is adamant that Lotus will remain a rare analog holdout in a world of computer-controlled supercars that defy the laws of physics. Like Elise before it, the Evora engages the driver in an intimate conversation between car and road. Like every Lotus, it’s a “momentum” car, meaning once speed is built up, don’t waste it by slowing down too much for corners. Behind the wheel, any cyclist or skier will quickly understand Evora’s supple yet tenacious handling. Gales is focused on fully reviving the road car business first, then turning to the company’s long-time engineering consultancy. “Traditionally, Lotus Engineering has always been the larger part of the Lotus business,” Gales says, “but more recently we have been more selective with the amount and type of work that we have undertaken. The consultancy business now represents 10% of total turnover. We do not exclude that it will grow again, but the priority for the next few years is on Lotus cars, which is the best advertisement for our consultancy division. Clients are coming to us for what our cars are globally renowned for, vehicle dynamics, lightweight engineering and efficiency.” Though Gales is coy about the vehicles he’ll announce in Geneva, it’s reasonable to expect a dramatically revamped Evora that’s lighter and significantly more powerful. Gales claims that Lotus has also reduced build costs by 10%. When pressed about the dull engine sound of the current 2014 Evora–one only hears the slight whirring of the supercharger that sits atop the Toyota V6–Gales responded, emphatically: very soon Evora will howl with the best sports cars. And the Evora that will likely bow at Geneva will come to America. “We are fully committed to the North American market and will produce a 2016 model year Evora that will be fully compliant for the USA. The North American market is vitally important for us and we are expanding our dealer network and will grow our sales volumes in the future.” "> Track specials like this Evora GT4 are a small but important part of the Lotus business plan. Their exceptional on-track handling and steering are an advertisement for Group Lotus’s engineering consultancy. To boost sales volumes, the new Evora–which won’t be released in the U.S. until late 2015–may become the basis of a new coupe-like CUV, though when pressed on the topic Gales grew entirely silent. More radical still, there could be a mid-front-engine, rear-drive four-door sedan, though any such car will be years away. With multiple flavors of Evora, a CUV and a smattering of track-only hyper-Lotuses to market to members of private racing clubs like Thermal in Palm Springs, Gales is confident he can lift Lotus’ global sales to 10,000 by 2018. Considering Lotus barely sold 1000 cars in 2013, and fewer than 2000 cars in 2014, it’s a bold prediction. Lotus will not match Ferrari or Porsche for annual or per-unit profit, but the company is sustainable at 3000 cars per year. “A break even point depends upon many variables, says Gales, “but we definitely have the intention of being profitable by producing and selling over 3000 cars per year in 2016.” When asked why a former president of Peugeot would move to often-gloomy Norfolk to run an advanced engineering firm that also crafts exotically simple sports cars, Gales is clear: “For the challenge,” he says. “I see a huge amount of potential for the company, and I know we can realize this potential. Also, I have always loved Lotus, ever since I was a child and my father took me to the Lotus dealer in Luxembourg. I still have the brochures from that visit.”
Legendary Formula 1 designer Gerard Ducarouge dies Wednesday, February 25th 2015, 01:11 GMT Gerard Ducarouge, the legendary Formula 1 designer who produced winning cars for Jackie Stewart and Ayrton Senna, has died. He was 73. The Frenchman's career in motor racing began in the 1960s with Matra in junior categories, before he helped design the MS80 that Stewart used on the way to winning the 1969 F1 world championship. Ducarouge subsequently guided Matra to success at Le Mans in the following decade, as the marque took three straight 24 Hours wins from 1972-74. Leaving Matra to join the new Ligier team, again proved his design genius as he helped guide the team to its maiden F1 win in the 1977 Swedish Grand Prix. After being dropped by Ligier mid-season in 1979, and having a brief foray with Alfa Romeo, Ducarouge was snapped up by Lotus in mid-1983 for perhaps the most memorable spell of his career. As the team was kept steady by Peter Warr following the death of Colin Chapman, Ducarouge was drafted in and again delivered all that was asked of him. A push towards the front of the grid, helped by the arrival of Ayrton Senna as lead driver in 1985, produced some memorable race victories - including the Brazilian's famous maiden triumph at Estoril. Another world championship title would elude him though and, as Lotus's fortunes faded in the 1990s, Ducarouge returned to France - first with Larrousse and then with Ligier, where he would remain until 1994. Martin Brundle, who worked with Ducarouge in his final spell at Ligier, was one of the first to offer his condolences. "That's sad, reading that F1 designer Gerard Ducarouge has died," he wrote on Twitter. "Worked with him at Ligier. Stylish, fun and clever man. RIP and condolences."