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Lotus plans network reshuffle

Lotus is looking to develop its dealer network in preparation for a new 911-bashing supercar to be launched in 2006/7. Built on radical new underpinnings, called VVA (versatile vehicle architecture), the car could spawn a whole new family of cars, including a GT.

The unnamed performance model is the centrepiece of a comprehensive business development plan started two years ago. And the success of the Elise, in the UK and abroad, and a £40m investment by Malaysian parent Proton, is allowing Lotus to start focusing on the brand as a whole.

“One thing you can always depend on with Lotus is outstanding product,” says Anwar Ali, general manager, Lotus Cars UK and Europe. “Now we want to develop partners with a solid financial base and a focus on customer service.”

The company has 23 UK dealers but is not looking to increase that number, or its UK sales volume, currently 1,000 cars a year. A key part of the business plan has been driving up residuals by limiting supply.

The company has identified five areas where it lacks coverage: Peterborough and the Fens, Aberdeen, Liverpool and central London. Filling these areas might require a network reshuffle as Lotus has some overlap within its existing retail coverage. A spokesman says it is in “advanced talks” with a dealer in Milton Keynes, although Lotus has issued calls for any other interested dealers to get in touch.

“We have got the balance of supply and demand right,” says Ali. “Dealers have a profitable economic model based on sales of new and used cars.”

Lotus’ residuals are among the best in the industry. Parker’s Guide puts a three-year-old, 36,000-mile Elise 1% off a Porsche Carrera 911S, at 71% retained value.

Last year Lotus launched the 111R Elise variant with a Toyota 1.8 VVT-i engine. This car has attracted sales from owners of “more mainstream German and Japanese coupes, who want something more sporty”.

Lotus believes the deal with Toyota is an endorsement of the gains it has made in quality – previously it has faced difficulties in persuading carmakers into partnership.

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