LAWRENCEVILLE, GA (December 30, 2003) - Lotus Cars, one of the world's bestknown British performance brands, has built its reputation for innovation over more than half a century of creating memorable sports cars. Today, Lotus Cars and its sister company Lotus Engineering are owned by Group Lotus, PLC, headquartered in Norfolk, Engla nd. While Lotus Cars continues to design and build sports cars revered for their performance, style and innovation, Lotus Engineering develops advanced automotive systems and components for many of the world's leading automakers. Together, these two enterprises are a powerful team, committed to changing the rules that define automotive excellence.

Group Lotus global headquarters are at Hethel, in Norfolk, England. The company moved to this former U.S. Air Force base used during World War 11 in1966. The location is home to design, manufacturing, research and development and sales facilities. Group Lotus U.S. subsidiaries include Lotus Cars USA, based in Lawrenceville, Georgia and Lotus Engineering, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Birth of a Brand

The Lotus brand was born in 1948 when Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman (1928-1982), an innovative engineer and passionate racer, built his first competition car, the Lotus Mark 1. In 1952, the Lotus Engineering Company was created to manufacture simple sports cars, either as complete cars or in kit form, at a North London facility. Success came swiftly and within 15 years the company had twice relocated to accommodate its rapid growth. Between 1958 and 1994 Lotus campaigned one of the most successful Formula One teams in history, winning 79 Grands Prix, seven Formula One Constructor's Championships and six Driver's Championships.
The list of Lotus drivers reads like a "Who's Who" of the racing world: Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, Stirling Moss, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Mika Hakkinen and others.

Lotus Cars: A history of innovation and performance

Since debuting in 1948 Lotus has been ahead of the curve, pioneering systems and designs still used on many of today I s modern vehicles. But despite significant technical advances through the years, with each new model Lotus continues to define founder Colin Chapman's four basic philosophies:

  • Performance through lightweight
  • Fun to drive
  • Great ride and handling
  • Innovation

Lotus's first closed passenger vehicle, the 1957 Elite, was the first production car to feature a glass-fiber monocoque chassis. The stylish Elite had a drag coefficient of 0.29, which is better than most of today's aerodynamic cars. The Elite was also fitted with four-wheel independent suspension-almost unheard of for a 1957 road car.

In 1962 the Elan coupe and convertible were introduced. These lightweight, glassfiber bodied sports cars were equipped with 1.6-liter engines, four-wheel disc brakes and independent suspension for incredible performance.

In 1967 Lotus introduced the Europa, the first truly drivable mid-engine, mid-priced road car. Some automotive media said it was the closest thing to a formula racer for the street.

By 1974 U.S. government regulations changed the way cars were designed and built, but that only inspired Chapman and his engineers to even greater levels of innovation. The result was the new Elite, which was equipped with the first four-valve-per- cylinder engine on the market.
In 1975, the car that would become the embodiment of Lotus in the U.S. for the next 30 years debuted at the Paris Motor Show. Response to the Giugiaro-designed Esprit was so overwhelming it was named "Star of the Show". Over its lifetime the Esprit received several major upgrades, including a 300 horsepower four-cylinder engine capable of launching the car to 60mph in 4.6 seconds, with a top speed of well over 160 mph.

It wasn't until 1990 that the next Lotus would come to the States. The Elan (Ml 00) encompassed state of the art technology and broke new ground in ride and handling. Power came from a 1588cc twin cam 16-valve turbocharged engine that produced 162bhp, a 0-60 acceleration time of 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 137mph. A hybrid of Lotus' classic steel backbone mated with advanced composites created one the stiffest cars in the world.

The Elan would be the last all-new Lotus for the U.S. market, until today. The Elise was conceived in 1995 as a low-volume boutique model for Europe and the lightweight roadster has taken the sports car world by storm, recognized globally by the motoring press as possibly the best handling car ever produced at any price. The Elise has shattered sales expectations and commanded waiting lists of more than a year. To date more than 17,000 have been produced -by far Lotus's best selling car ever.

Long anticipated by enthusiasts and the press the Elise will be available in the United States beginning in the spring of this year as a 2005 model. The US spec Elise is powered by a Lotus-tuned four-cylinder Toyota engine with 190bhp and variable valve timing. Power will be put to the ground via a 6-speed manual gearbox. Like all Lotus cars the Elise features an innovative chassis - this one made of bonded and extruded aluminum, the first of its kind in a production car. All this in a package weighing less than 2,000 pounds gives the Elise a 0-60 time of under five seconds and a top speed approaching 150 mph.

Lotus Engineering: Changing the Rules

In addition to its work for Lotus Cars, Lotus Engineering is a leading consultancy specializing in vehicle systems integration and powertrain and chassis engineering. From individual components and systems to entire vehicles, Lotus Engineering offers a full range of engineering capabilities to automakers around the globe. Since its inception in 1952 Lotus Engineering has developed some of the most advanced automotive systems and components, including:

  • 1957 - First composite monocoque road car (Lotus Elite)
  • 1962 - First aluminum monocoque in F1 (Lotus 25)
  • 1967 - First use of fully-stressed engine (Lotus 49)
  • 1977 - First Ground Effects (Lotus 78)
  • 1983 - Active Suspension (Lotus 92)
  • 1995 - Extruded and Bonded Aluminum Chassis (Lotus Elise)
  • 2002 - Active Valve Train - AVT

Since 1985, Lotus Engineering has developed more than 38 separate powertrains and more than 10 percent of new cars sold in Europe have engines designed and developed by Lotus. Lotus Engineering was even integral in the development of the Opel SpeedsterNauxhall VX220, of which 3,000 per year are built. The company currently holds 136 patents, 21 of which are licensed to other automakers.

In 2003, Lotus Engineering signed a licensing agreement with Eaton Automotive to develop a production version of Lotus's Active Valve Train TM (AVT) system. This technology opens the door to a new generation of advanced camless engine development and further underscores Lotus's engineering pedigree.