Lotus boss welcomes Jenson Button for VIP Emira launch

Lotus managing director Matt Windle Norfolk

Lotus managing director Matt Windle, speaking ahead of Tuesday night's VIP world premiere of the new Emira car. - Credit: Denise Bradley

Racing car champion Jenson Button and other celebrities - some flying in by helicopter - are attending the world premiere of the new Lotus car in Norfolk.

Matt Windle Lotus Norfolk

Lotus managing director Matt Windle speaks to this newspaper ahead of the big world premiere of the Emira. - Credit: Denise Bradley

The Emira will be officially unveiled to around 250 VIP guests after being shrouded in secrecy leading up to tonight's 'big reveal' at the Lotus HQ in Hethel.

But there will be a strict 'no alcohol' policy as many potential buyers are driving to the event.

Lotus Norfolk

The Lotus base at Hethel - Credit: Archant

The Emira, which means ‘commander’ in several ancient languages, is being revealed in Norfolk ahead of a debut at Goodwood.

Developed under the Type 131 codename, the Emira will be the final petrol-only Lotus, with all future models either hybrid or fully electric. It's priced at around £60,000.

Lotus Hethel HQ Norfolk

The Lotus HQ at Hethel - Credit: Archant

Lotus staff globally were given a sneak preview of how the car looks - a tradition at the firm. People trying to get the first glimpse managed to fly a drone over the Hethel base yesterday  as the first Emira came off the production line - but luckily only managed to get grainy images.

Matt Windle, managing director, who took over six months ago from Phil Popham, spoke to this newspaper ahead of the launch.

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He said the event would be 'beaming Norfolk across the world' with live footage going up on huge billboards in LA and London.

"It’s been in the making for three years and now we are showing the world what we are capable of. It is a new chapter as the Elise, Exige and the Evora are coming to an end.

"Jenson Button is here driving the cars."

He joked: "We’ve let him loose and haven’t seen him since.

"He is a customer of ours. He has an Evija, the hypercar, so I hope I can get an order out of him for the Emira.

"But we also have a good working relationship through JBXE Racing; Lotus is the technical partner, and also Radford."

Jenson Button in Norfolk at Lotus

Racing car driver Jenson Button is in Norfolk for the Emira launch at the Lotus HQ in Hethel. - Credit: PA

Both Button's JBXE Racing and Radford, his coachbuilding firm, have partnered with Lotus.

Mr Windle also said the launch marked further expansion by Lotus - which is now looking to recruit 200 workers to be trained in-house.

After investment of £100m in the Hethel base, new 12,000 sqft facilities mean Lotus can treble its current production with the Emira. New factory lines, automated paint spray units and a 'monsoon' tunnel to test the car in all conditions mean Lotus can produce a minimum of 4,800 of the cars a year.

The plan is to build around 20,000 of the Emiras over the next five-six years with the biggest market being in the US as well as Japan and Europe. The first of the new cars should be delivered to customers next April.