New era for Lotus

We have a world class team, the backing and the drive - and above all some incredible sports cars.

That was the message from Group Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar as the iconic Norfolk carmaker unveiled five new sports cars at the Paris Motor Show.

In a glittering ceremony yesterday, stars including supermodel Naomi Campbell, actor Mickey Rourke and Queen guitarist Brian May removed the covers from the new models.

They include the four-door, 620 horsepower Eterne, which represents a clear diversion from Lotus' recent focus on smaller, lighter vehicles.

Mr Bahar described the model as a 'milestone' in the company's history. Aimed at the 'gentleman' driver, the Eterne is expected to be popular as a chauffeur driven car in some markets around the world.

The new Elite, a 'British expression of exclusivity', announced last week, was also unveiled to the public for the first time.

Available in petrol and hybrid options, the car is equipped with a 600 horsepower V8 engine.

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The covers were also removed from a bigger and heavier version of the Elise, a car first launched 15 years ago, a new four litre engine Elan and a new Esprit.

Announcing the Esprit, which will hit the markets in 2013, Mr Bahar said: 'This is the car all people have been waiting for. The icon is back.

'This will put Lotus back on the map. It will raise the profile back to where it was 20 years ago.'

The company's engineering consultancy arm Lotus Engineering also unveiled a new concept car at the show, one of the major events in the global motor industry.

The low-carbon city car can be operated as a zero-emission electric car or as a hybrid, and is aimed at offering 'the perfect solution for life in the contemporary city environment'.

Two new versions of the award-winning Evora were also announced; the Evora S, which has a fine tuned suspension for extra power and control, and the automotic transmission Evora IPS, aimed at 'broadening the appeal' of the model, particularly in established automatic locations, such as Asia.

Mr Bahar said the new models would employ lightness and simplicity in following with the principles established by Lotus founder Colin Chapman, and drive major growth in turnover for the company, which is owned by Malaysian carmaker Proton.

The company aims to increase production from about 2,700 cars per year to between 6,000 and 7,000, which at between �80,000 and �135,000 will be significantly more expensive than its current models.

However, doubt remains over whether the new models will be manufactured at Lotus' Norfolk plant, and the company has not confirmed where they will be produced. In addition to Norfolk, the company has production facilities across the world, including in China and the US.

Chris Starkie, chief executive of economic development partnership Shaping Norfolk's Future, said the announcement was 'one of the biggest days in Lotus' history' with so many new models unveiled.

He added: 'I will obviously be interested to learn more about the details of how Lotus plans to develop and produce the cars.

'I expect and will lobby for Lotus to expand its manufacturing at Hethel, which is the headquarters and heart of the company.'