Irish motor dealer chain Joe Duffy Group it to take on the Lotus brand in its network. It coincides with Charles Hurst Group saying it will open a Lotus showroom in Belfast.
It comes as the brand is undergoing a major revamp under its Chinese owner Geely, which plans to turn it into an all-electric premium car maker.
The sports car brand has already launched its last-ever combustion model — the Emira, which comes with a choice of Toyota-sourced V6 or Mercedes-AMG-sourced turbo four-cylinder power — and has already shown its first two electric models.
The first of these was the Evija, an all-electric hypercar with more than 2,000hp and the ability to accelerate to 100km/h in less than three seconds. This, clearly, is a loss-leading halo model, but more significantly Lotus has also shown off its first ever SUV.
The Lotus Type 132, which will now be known as the Eletre, (pronounced ‘El-etra). It’s an all-electric five-door crossover which takes the traditional Lotus ‘needle-nose’ and raises it up about a foot higher than you’d expect it to be. It’s quite low-slung, by SUV standards, with a long, flowing roofline and a sharp kick-up in the rear pillar.
Underneath, Lotus has developed a new electric car platform which is versatile enough to build this generously-sized five-seater, or turn its hand to making a low-slung mid-engined two-seater.
For the Eletre, Lotus has fitted a battery with “more than 100kWh” capacity (it’s said to be 120kWh, but Lotus is not yet confirming that figure) with a one-charge range of 600km.
The battery can be charged at 800-volts and 350kW from a DC charger, which can add as much as 400km range in 20-minutes. Higher-power versions, with as much as 750hp, will come later but the Eletre will launch with a two-motor, four-wheel drive electric layout providing 600hp. Lotus is claiming a 0-100km/h time of “less than three seconds” but hasn’t provided an official figure yet.
The Eletre has five-link suspension at the rear, while standard equipment includes air suspension and electronic dampers. Active ride height, active rear axle steering, an active anti-roll bar and torque vectoring via braking are all available. Lotus hasn’t given a kerb weight for the Eletre yet, but it has claimed that it has designed a car that is lighter — and therefore more agile and more efficient — than its competition. It’s a big car, though — 5.1-metres long, and those are 23-inch wheels filling those arches.
More will follow. The company has already confirmed that it’s working on a low-slung four-door saloon using the same platform as the Eletre, currently known only by its Type 133 code name. Meanwhile, Lotus is also collaborating with Renault’s spinoff brand Alpine to create lightweight all-electric sports cars.
In the meantime, Irish Lotus fans can start fogging the windows of Joe Duffy’s dealership in Airside Retail Park from January.
Conor Kilduff, Joe Duffy Brand Director, said: “Lotus Cars is synonymous with innovation, dynamic performance and cutting-edge technology and we look forward to welcoming the Emira to our showroom in early 2023 followed soon by the all-electric SUV the Eletre.”
Lotus isn’t quite a stranger to the Irish market. In 2004, Paul Linders opened up a Lotus showroom as part of his eponymous dealership.
An avid car-enthusiast, Linders worked hard to sell Lotus to Irish buyers, but sadly the pairing never clicked. “I think in fairness, at the time, Lotus was going through a difficult time,” Linders tells The Irish Times. “They were owned by Proton then, and I don’t think there was a lot of investment on the product side. So that, coupled with the fact that — despite the cars being wonderful little cars — in a market as heavily taxed as ours, it was hard to make a return on the franchise.” Indeed, during his time as a Lotus dealer, Linders was getting more customers crossing the Border than he was buyers in the Republic.
Now though, does the arrival of an electric SUV make Lotus potentially viable again in Ireland? “The brand has huge familiarity in Ireland, you’d be surprised. Maybe it’s the James Bond effect. You’ve got to remember that back in 2004, when we were visiting Lotus HQ in Hethel, they were actually working on the first Tesla, the Roadster, which was based on the Elise sports car, so they’ve actually got tremendous heritage in electric performance. I do think that they have the brand recognition, and if that can be leveraged with more everyday vehicles.”