In another overseas acquisition for Chinese carmakers, prestige British car brand Lotus will soon be owned by China’s Geely. The Chinese auto giant also owns Sweden’s Volvo, and will assume ownership of Lotus from the brand’s current parent company, Malaysia’s Proton.
Lotus is an iconic sports car brand that until 2015 also had its own Formula One team, but sales have lagged in recent years. Geely hopes to turn this around with its controlling 51 percent stake in the automaker. The move also reflects the Chinese brand’s expansion into Southeast Asia, as it will now have a 49.9 percent stake in Proton, according to Business Insider.
Geely has long been eyeing the global market, buoyed by its ownership of Volvo and the more recently launched brand Lynk & Co, whose concept car boasts internet connectivity complete with its own app store. Since being purchased by Geely in 2010, Volvo has been adapting its ultra luxury vehicles to suit the expectations of wealthy Chinese consumers, who are accustomed to being chauffeured. This has meant adding design touches like a back seat with extra legroom and ditching the front passenger seat entirely to make way for added amenities like a touchscreen console and shoe storage. Volvo’s Thomas Ingenlath told the Financial Times that the front passenger seat is “an absolute no-go” as it carries too low a status for Volvo’s affluent Chinese customers.
In contrast with Volvo’s more family-friendly focus, sports car makers like Lotus tend to focus more squarely on appealing to the client behind the wheel. It’s still too early to tell how the Geely acquisition will affect Lotus’ strategy for attracting sports car-obsessed Chinese consumers, but the acquisition is a boost for Geely’s prestige in the luxury car sector. One auto consultant in China tells Bloomberg that “Volkswagen has Porsche and Toyota has its Lexus”—now, Geely has its very own Lotus.