Interview with Simon Clare, Global Marketing Director at Group Lotus
Lotus stamped an emphatic presence at the recent Goodwood Festival of Speed. Flush with investment from Chinese automotive giant Geely, their exhibition stand was big and bold. It also housed a sneak preview of one of the most exciting new cars at show: the Lotos Evija.
I caught up with Simon Clare, Global Marketing Director at Group Lotus, to get an insight into the future of Lotus under new ownership. As news about the Evija echoes across DriveTribe and social media, we sense exciting times to come.
JMJ: Simon tell me what Goodwood means to you
SC: “Goodwood is very important, it’s really now the British motor show. There are moving cars, cars going up the hill, it’s the beauty of motorsports, it’s everything in one location over four days and the crowds it draws are superb. It’s become more important now the official British Motor Show has long gone. It's where people come who love motorsport and automotive. Petrolheads and families alike”.
JMJ: And how are you representing Lotus here?
SC: “we’ve got the Exige and Elise, the Elise still winning awards after 23 years. We’ve just been named the icon of icons by Autocar which we’re very proud of, and of course we’ve got the Evora.
We’ve also got a selection of very special cars, including Jim Clark’s Type 25 racing car, returning 54-years after it set the record lap-time for the Goodwood Racing Circuit. A record that still stands today.
We’ve also got a concept version of our new GT4 race car, currently going through development and homologation. We hope to be back racing very shortly in the GT4 series.
And then finally, we’ve got a car reveal, our first hypercar, the Lotus Evija. The name is actually very appropriate, meaning the first in existence. It’s the first British all-electric hypercar ever created and is also the first car we’ve created under our Geely ownership.
The Evija is here under lock and key, being shown to VIP’s, but because we’re Lotus and because we’re an accessible brand, it’s not about excluding the public, we’re also using Goodwood to provide a bit of a tease reveal for the public as well. Every hour, we give a sneak preview through a tunnel at the side of the stand, so people can get a glimpse of what’s to come.”
JMJ: A new electric hypercar sounds like a significant strategic move.
SC: “Yes, it's a statement of intent for us, the first car under the Geely ownership and an announcement that Lotus is back and we’re embracing technology. The vehicle adopts a design language that will point to a new direction, providing a tease to where our sports cars may go in the future. It’s also a sign that our first production car is not very far away.”
The Evija signals back to what Colin Chapman set out to do. Fundamentally it was about building cars, whether they were racing cars or whether they were road cars, it was about providing an experience for the driver. Whether that was winning races or engagement on the road. A Lotus is a car able to feel the road, you feel how the car performs, it’s about aerodynamics, it’s about lightweight agility. Whether a road car or an F1 car.
JMJ: So “Fun to drive” is a brand value integral to Lotus
SC: “Absolutely. It’s got to put a smile on your face and that’s what Lotus do well, it’s fun to drive. We need to harness that key value while looking forward. Colin Chapman always looked forward, he was an innovator, something of a genius, always refining his ideas, embracing the future.
So hence today we’re talking about an electric hypercar, a lot of people might think “gosh, an electric hypercar, is that Lotus”, well it’s absolutely Lotus, it’s exactly what Colin Chapman would be doing today if he was still around.”
JMJ: “You mentioned Geely, an incredible Chinese group with an enormous portfolio - Volvo, Lynk & Co, the London Electric Vehicle Company and now you guys. What will their investment mean to you? How will it shape Lotus? Are we witnessing the rebirth of a legend?”
SC: “Yeah I think we absolutely are. They’re the right partner, the right investor. It’s not just about the investment though, it’s about the access to technology, it’s about access to future technologies which Geely definitely brings.
Importantly it’s also about the partner really understanding the brand, I think that’s what we’ve got in our parent company Geely. They recognise what they’ve bought with Lotus, they’ve bought a very famous iconic British brand and it complements their portfolio perfectly.
They recognise the soul of that brand is about sports cars, British sports cars, and it’s even about British sports cars from Hethel in Norfolk.
The soul of the brand will always remain there, so even when we expand with increased volumes and we might even outgrow the capacity one day at Hethel, it will always be where our sports cars are built, it will always be the soul of the brand,”
We might need to expand out into manufacturers around the country, maybe even around the world, but the soul of the brand will remain true here in Norfolk. Geely very much recognise that.”
JMJ: “Its great to hear an icon of British automotive history has so much potential support.”
SC: “Absolutely, it is. It’s a display of what we can do with our technology, what we can do with our design. But also, something that will very quickly be followed by a realistically priced, more attainable sports car. The hypercar gives us a headline and a direction, but the future will be sports cars.”
JMJ: “Do you think there’ll be any technology inside the car? Because when I think of Lotus I think of stripped down performance driving, but Geely have some big technology hitters in their portfolio.”
SC: “They have, but it's how you determine technology, whether it’s aerodynamics or he way that we do the dampers and springs. It’s important we embrace technology but it has to have a purpose, be there for a reason. It’s not technology for technology's sake. If it doesn’t enhance the driving characteristics of the car, the driver’s feelings, and the engagement with the car, it’s not a Lotus.”