August 1 2014 Latest news:
Shaun Lowthorpe, Business editor
Friday, August 2, 2013
Hopes were high of a “new dawn” for Norfolk car maker Lotus as bosses gave the green light to a plan to create more than 100 new jobs at Hethel in the wake of a £100m investment in the business – underscoring the commitment of its Malaysian owners to the firm.
In a major jobs boost for the county, the firm is to recruit 45 specialist engineers and 40 manufacturing operatives while also revamping its graduate programme and taking on 18 university leavers.
Speculation has surrounded the fate of the company after new owners DRB-Hicom bought its parent company Proton last year, amid suggestions that it had been given a three year stay of execution by the Malaysian conglomerate.
However DRB said the investment had enabled Lotus to strengthen its engineering, productivity, efficiency and quality and the firm was now accepting applications for the new roles. Now all eyes will be on whether Lotus will confirm that it is taking up the government’s £10m regional growth fund offer after business secretary Vince Cable gave the thumbs-up.
In a sign of steadily growing confidence, sales are well up this year and the firm, which last year was forced to temporarily suspend production, is now making between 40 to 45 cars a week at its Hethel HQ – with 85pc of its vehicles made for export. In the five months to May, Lotus sold 80 cars in the UK compared to the 70 UK sales for the whole of last year. It said it had sold 722 cars globally and had also sold 45 racing cars.
Aslam Farikullah, chief operating officer at Lotus, said: “It’s been a period of substantial change at Lotus and we are now in a strong position to expand our work on future products and to increase production in our manufacturing facilities. We want Lotus to be at the forefront of the global automotive industry and for us to remain competitive, we will introduce more exciting products – there has never been a better time to be part of the future of Lotus.”
Under the plans, both the engineering specialists and graduates will work on the development of new products within Lotus Engineering, one of the most renowned automotive engineering facilities in the world.
Lotus said it has created the new jobs in response to increased global demand for its sport cars and an anticipated rise in interest in its engineering consultancy services. The firm is also focusing on growing into new global markets as currently around 90pc of all Lotus vehicles are exported. Lotus, which recently unveiled its latest model, the Exige S Roadster, employs more than 1,100 staff across the UK.
Mark Pym, group head of human resources at Lotus, said: “It’s a positive sign for both the UK car industry and Lotus that we are able to recruit such a high number of both experienced specialists and graduates, who will take their first steps on an exciting and rewarding career path.”
John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, and a member of the New Anglia board, said: “It’s a new dawn. Lotus was always about building lightweight fuel efficient cars that were fund to drive. If they are going to take that recipe and sell it around the world using people based in Norfolk, then Lotus could rise again.”
George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “It’s fantastic news, and it comes on the back of the news about the extension of Norwich Airport. In both cases these are exactly the sorts of skilled jobs which Norfolk needs.”
A father and son who joined forces to set up their own business are hoping to push the boundaries as their company goes from strength to strength.