Lotus geared up for Australian revival

23 Jun 2016

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Legendary British brand Lotus is about to make another attempt at a revival in the Australian market, after recently parting ways with vehicle distributor Ateco.

Sydney Lotus dealer Simply Sports Cars is expected to outline its plans to take over Lotus distribution at an owner drive day at Wakefield Park in Goulburn, NSW this Friday.

Lotus sales have slowed to a trickle this year amid uncertainty about the brand's future here, with just six cars sold in the first five months compared with 28 in the same period last year.

It's a far cry from the 2010 Paris motor show, where flamboyant former CEO Dany Bahar unveiled five new cars and declared the maker was moving upmarket and expanding to take on the likes of Ferrari and Aston Martin.

Those grand plans never came to fruition and the company became mired in controversy during an acrimonious split with Bahar that involved allegations of impropriety, unfair dismissal claims and countersuits.

An out-of-court settlement was reached with Lotus owner DRB-Hicom in 2014.

The company then hired former PSA Peugeot-Citroen boss Jean-Marc Gales to rebuild and has since set more modest sales targets and ditched plans for some new models.

It aims, however, to update the Elise and Exige and develop a roadster version of the Evora, before embarking on an ambitious project to build an SUV for the Chinese market, taking on the Porsche Macan. Sales are to start in 2019.

There are plans for expansion overseas but growth expectations in Australia were modest, prompting Ateco to walk away from the brand.

Simply Sports Cars declined to comment on the relaunch. It is understood to have cars on the water headed for Australia.

The brand currently markets three models in Australia, starting with the Elise at $74,990 and going up to the $134,500 Exige and $183,990 Evora 400.

The Evora 400, the flagship of the range, hasn't been officially launched here but is already on sale. Powered by a 3.5-litre supercharged V6, the circa 300kW Evora can sprint from 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.1 seconds.

Simply Sports Cars, in Sydney's suburban Artarmon, started out as a licensed Lotus service centre in 2003 before graduating to full dealership status in 2013. It has been the brand's top-selling dealer for the past three years.

Under the new distribution arrangement there will be Lotus dealerships in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, with the ACT and Tasmania handled from Sydney and Melbourne respectively.

Simply Sports Cars runs three owner drive days a year at racetracks in NSW and Victoria and sales director Richard Gibbs says the days usually attract about 70 cars.

The dealer is aiming to attract weekend warriors to the brand by offering race experiences and developing a local motorsport program. It is expected to announce a driver for the program this week.

Source: Richard Blackburn - Carsguide.com