New Lotus owner considers starting production in China – but reaffirms commitment to brand’s UK home

The new owner of Norfolk car-maker Lotus has opened the door to the famous marque being produced overseas, as it targets greater sales in the Asian market.

Group Lotus cars could be manufactured in China, the chairman of Geely suggested following the £100m takeover – though a spokesman has since underlined Lotus’s commitment to Britain.

The Chinese billionaire chairman of Geely, Li Shufu, confirmed the possibility of some production taking place outside the UK as part of group’s long-term strategy during a press conference after signing the deal.

But Geely has affirmed its commitment to keep Lotus’ UK base, as it has done with its other companies, the London Taxi Company and Volvo – which is still headquartered in Gothenberg, Sweden.

A Geely spokesman said the group wanted to produce vehicles closer to target markets but saw no need to uproot a firm with more than 50 years of history in Britain. “This is just like what we have done with London Taxi Company, engineer in Britain, design in Britain, built in Britain,” he said. “We see no reason to move fifty years of combined experience to China – let them do what they do best – in Britain.”

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“Geely is fully committed to revitalizing the Lotus brand which will include new investment and a widened car range.” he said, adding that it wanted to make “the Lotus brand a global one, staying true to the brand’s heritage”.

Geely has produced China-specific Volvo models in the country while updating production facilities in the brand’s native Sweden, and has also established a US production site for the American market.

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The deal for a 51% stake in EDP/EADT Top 100 firm Lotus was worth around £100m, and Geely also bought 49.9% of Lotus’s previous parent company Proton, to gain a foothold in South-east Asian markets.

Lotus, based at Hethel near Wymondham, and employing around 750 people in Norfolk, has struggled in recent years and reported losses of £18.3m for the year to March 2016, as production levels fell from around 2,000 cars to 1,600.

But chief executive Jean-Marc Gales has recently been bullish on the company’s prospects, announcing a return to profitability earlier this year.

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