Add Lightness And Quality: Inside Lotus’ Turnaround Plans

Lotus is steadily becoming the carmaker we all once thought it was. Forget its brief — and, as it turned out, fantastical — flirtation with luxury sports cars and front-engine AWD hybrid sedans and coupes. According to CEO Jean-Marc Gales, it’s once again all about simple, ultra-lightweight cars with transcendent handling.

Gales was hired by Lotus’ Malaysian owner, DRB-HICOM, after the ouster of Dany Bahar, the CEO who wanted to shift Lotus toward a Porsche-like range. Gales is a lifelong Lotus fan — he even collected the brochures when a boy — and a self-confessed uber-gearhead. He trained as an engineer, but he’s had senior posts in other disciplines for a number of carmakers, including as global head of sales for Mercedes-Benz.

He draws two solid lines in the sand very early in our interview. First: “Any car we launch in the next two years will be lighter and faster than its predecessor.” This applies to new versions of the Elise, Exige, and Evora. And second: “I want to sell 3,000 cars a year.”