Lotus, one of the most iconic names in British motorsport and car production, has confirmed it will build a new ‘Type 131’ sports car this year at its newly refurbished £100 million Hethel headquarters.
The Norfolk-based carmaker has also confirmed production of its three current sports car models — the Elise, Exige and Evora — will stop this year.
The announcement means the end for one of Lotus’s most important and iconic models: the Elise. Launched 26 years ago in 1995, it pioneered the use of an extruded-and-bonded aluminium chassis, which it still uses today.
The new-look line-up will see two more models joining the Type 131. Though there’s not much else to see apart from three pairs of headlights, the new teaser image from Lotus shows the new three-car line-up alongside the all-electric Evija hypercar.
As part of its Vision80 strategy, Lotus has invested £100 million to upgrade Hethel. It also plans to recruit 250 new employees to help build the new car and outfit subsidiary Lotus Engineering’s new base in Warwick. All this is in addition to the 670 employees who have joined Lotus since Chinese car-making giant Geely took ownership in 2017.
Though no official details of the Type 131 have been released, we know from previous reports that the new car will sit above the outgoing Evora. It will also be powered by a V6 powertrain mated to an in-house hybrid system.
The model is also expected to be “ in the spirit” of the classic Esprit, though it’s as yet unclear wether Lotus will revive the name. The new car will kickstart the modernisation programme instigated by Geely.
All three of the new cars announced by the carmaker will be built on a brand new lightweight platform. And peering at the silhouettes hidden beneath the sheets in the teaser image, it’s fair to draw a conclusion that all three — with their distinctive headlight signatures — understandably take inspiration from the Evija. Expect the the hypercar’s low, sharp-edged front fascia featuring large, open-mouth style ventilation to become the leading style cue across the new range.
The first new Lotus since the Geely purchase, the £1.7 million limited-run Evija hypercar, starts production later this year at Hethel.
“This year will be hugely significant for Lotus,” Lotus CEO Phil Popham said, “with new facilities coming on stream, a new sports car entering production and new levels of efficiency and quality that only a new car design and factory can deliver.
“Despite the continuing global challenges, Lotus has emerged from 2020 strong and on track in the delivery of our Vision80 business plan.
"Lotus is all about looking forward, and our future is full of continuous innovation. In 2021, however, we will be reflecting on the legacy of our current range, starting with the Elise, a sports car that genuinely revolutionised the automotive industry, not only because it is a legend-in-its-own-lifetime but also for its impact on car design and technology.”