The journey up the A11 to the Lotus factory in Hethel, Norfolk to hear the latest plan, from the latest CEO tasked with reinvigorating the brand, has become an all-too-frequent occurrence in the past decade.
But, five months since his appointment as Lotus CEO, new boss Phil Popham is keen to talk. This time, there’s reason for optimism. In 2017, Geely Auto Group (which also owns Volvo, Proton, Lynk&Co and makes the new EV London Taxi) acquired the major shareholding in Lotus. In September 2018, Popham was appointed. And he’s clearly been busy. Driving past the factory, you’re aware of significant expansion already taking place; as becomes clear during our interview, this is just the start.
Having spent 25 years at Jaguar Land Rover, culminating in his role as Global Operations Director, Popham left in 2014 to join Sunseeker Yachts. He spent four years there, turning the business around, before being approached by Geely to run Lotus.
Popham admits that there were, in his words, “very few automotive brands” he would have been interested in working for. However, he explained that “the combination of the allure of Lotus being an iconic British brand with a rich history and wealth of engineering credibility and desirability, along with the seriousness Geely was taking in the brand’s reinvigoration” persuaded him to Norfolk.
While the expansion of the current site is ongoing, construction is about to start on an all-new purpose-built Customer Experience Centre located next to the FIA-approved test track. This will form the focal point for visitors and provide direct access to the track for test drives.