Lotus's proposed supermini has been approved and will be built in partnership with parent company Proton and a third car manufacturer, Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar has told CAR.
'Our city car has been confirmed and will be launched in October 2013,' he said. 'We are doing this together with Proton and another OEM [original equipment manufacturer, or car maker].
'We will build three versions: one for the Asian market, one for Europe and a sportier one.'
Lotus supermini: the background
The Lotus City Car concept was the mystery sixth car unveiled at the Paris motor show. Although the show stand was hogged by the five sports cars, the supermini was also shown with a production intent.
Although the concept car originated in Hethel and packs Lotus's range-extender know-how (the 1.2-litre triple used to charge the battery pack is the same as in Jaguar's LimoGreen project), it is in fact being mostly engineered for production overseas.
New technical director Wolf Zimmermann confirmed his team were not actively working on the Lotus supermini at present, as their engineering resource focuses on the new sports cars, and especially the new 2013 Esprit.
Proton and Lotus
Proton has a rising foothold in the Malaysian market - 'on track to have a 30% market share,' according to Bahar. He said Proton had a new management team who were serious about expanding beyond the domestic market.
'Over the past 15 years, Proton has had no profit at all from Lotus,' admitted Bahar. 'They decided to sell it or give it another chance. But if they had sold it 12 months ago, there were no buyers and the price would have been far too low.
'The only option was to go into expansion and try again.'
Talk about expansion. With an ambitious plan to launch five sports cars in five years, Lotus has come out fighting. That it will have a supermini in the range too is an exciting development for Hethel. And who could that mystery third partner be?
Lotus will bring its City Car concept to market under the Ethos name in the not-too-distant future. Although no final dates were provided, we think it will be after 2012, in late 2013, maybe even as as a 2014 model. First shown at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, the City Car concept was designed to compete with Aston Martin Cygnet and other upscale city cars.
The concept featured a hybrid drivetrain capable of 37 miles of electric-only power and a 310-mile range when accounting for the on-board small 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine. Peak output was 72 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, enough motivation to send the 3,086-pound Ethos through the zero-to-62-mph sprint in nine seconds, which is faster than both the Fiat 500 and Aston Martin Cygnet. Top speed is 106 mph; but, to sustain an electric charge, the car should only be run up to 75 mph.
Lotus has every intention to bring the car to the United States at a price around $45,000.