Lotus dealers will be required to invest at least £1 million each in revitalised dealerships to move forward with the ambitious British sports car brand.
The move will almost halve its network, favouring fewer, larger showrooms with staff who can help it raise its game and become a real competitor in the prestige market.
The Paris Motor Show saw Lotus reveal plans for five new models by 2015 which, it says, will re-establish it as a global supercar brand.
The launches include models that will retail for more than £100,000 and which will court customers familiar with Porsche and Aston Martin levels of customer service and facilities.
Currently, all 21 Lotus franchised dealerships in the UK are under termination. New contracts will be signed by July 2012. However, Lotus admits some retailers will not be willing to make the minimum £1m investment to meet its new franchise standards.
Chief commercial officer Andreas Prillmann told AM: “There are some dealers who won’t make the investment or who can’t make it.
“I think they will voluntarily look for different opportunities. It’s not their world, in the prestige sector.
“But we have some dealers already with other premium brands who will understand what we ask for. It’s not over the top, but it is how best to serve the customer.”
Lotus wants a UK network of 10 to 12 dealers in or near major cities, supported by more authorised repairer sites. Prillmann said each dealership would need to retail a minimum of 40 new cars annually in order for the business case to be viable.
Each dealership will be at least 500sq m in size, with a bespoke brand entrance, showroom space for at least five new cars, service workshop, used car display and adequate customer parking. In specific cases, such as central London, Lotus would consider dual-level dealerships or split sales and aftersales locations.
Workforces will typically number nine to 12 personnel across sales, aftersales and customer service.
Prillmann is confident of successfully revitalising the network. He joined Lotus earlier this year, having reorganised the business model and franchised network of Ferrari. Prior to that, he had conducted similar exercises while at Porsche and Aston Martin.
He is conscious that the club-like enthusiasm already present in the network, where retailers hold regular dealership events and host track days, must remain integral to Lotus’s distribution.
Close customer relationships
“Our aim in taking Lotus to 8,000 units a year is always to have one-to-one relationships with customers. Each dealer will sell around 40 to 50 cars a year and will have dedicated people who will sustain very close relationships with our customers.”
Existing partners include AM100 groups Pendragon, Cambria Automobiles, JCT600 and John Martin Group, while a few Lotus dealers run the franchise alongside used sports or classic car operations.
The UK is a key market for the British sports car maker, alongside mainland Europe and the USA. Particular emphasis will be given to the US.
Group Lotus said it had been turned down by the British Government for a £40m loan in order to upgrade its factory in Hethel, Norfolk, in preparation for the new models’ production, which it said would create some 1,200 extra jobs.
The carmaker said it hoped to build the new models at Hethel, but due to difficulties over government support was now considering building some elsewhere, such as in central Europe.
Lotus’s vision: the cars
- The first new car, a 615bhp V8-powered Esprit at £110,000, will go into production in October 2012. Lotus claims optional hybrid technology will keep its CO2 emissions down to around 250g/km.
- In 2013 it will be the turn of the £75,000 Elan, with a 445bhp 4-litre V6 at its heart, before 2014 will herald the 615bhp V8-powered Elite 2+2 coupe, priced around £115,000.
- An Eterne four-door grand tourer is planned for 2015, priced around £120,000, and it will be joined later that year by a new 318bhp Elise with a 318bhp turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, priced around £35,000.