Iconic British sportscar maker, Lotus, may find its future production shifted to China under the ownership of its new parent company, Geely.
Geely chairman Li Shufu described his company’s priority as making Proton and Lotus profitable whilst adding available new technologies to both product lines.
Under this latest ownership shuffle Geely has acquired a 51 percent stake in Lotus as well as 49.9 percent of Malaysian automaker Proton, both previously majority-owned by Malaysian company DRB-Hicom.
In a report by Bloomberg Li was unclear on the scope of any possible Chinese production, including how many models might be scheduled for Chinese production, or if British assembly would remain.
Looking to Geely’s previous efforts with Volvo, it’s possible that Lotus cars could be built in China alongside regular British production, although the sportscar maker’s much lower production volumes could make such a move unnecessary.
Other reports have suggested that even if production moves to a lower-cost Chinese facility, Lotus’ headquarters would likely remain in Hethel, England, mirroring the Volvo example yet again, where management has remained in Sweden despite Chinese ownership.
Geely has released a statement that it expects the Proton and Lotus transaction to be officially completed within the next three months and will then set about recruiting a new management team from a selection of global candidates.
“The deep regional knowledge we gain from Proton and Lotus through this transformative partnership, coupled with our technological expertise and leadership in innovation, opens the door for Zhejiang Geely to become a major player in the Asean market,” Li said in the statement. “We will work together to make the most of our respective strengths.”
Geely’s product platforms will allow Proton access to its first-ever SUV, with the Geely Boyue expected to form the basis of a future Geely crossover as a way of stemming the decline in sales of Proton cars.
An SUV platform may also form the basis of a new Lotus product line as the sportscar maker diversifies its product offerings in the same way companies like Porsche, and soon Lamborghini, have done.
More concrete confirmation of Geely’s future plans for both Lotus and Proton will be revealed as the process of changing ownership wraps up, however Proton’s access to the South East Asian market is seen as a key strategic advantage as Geely looks to expand into markets outside of China.