- The Lotus Evija is still on track for customer deliveries in 2020, although probably closer to the end of the year than previously planned, and Lotus still intends to sell all 130.
- The coronavirus pandemic has delayed engineering and sales efforts, but Lotus plans to reopen operations on May 11.
- Interestingly, Lotus created a new configurator for the Evija, with dream specs available on a touchscreen, but has had to substitute video conferencing instead.
While the global lockdown in the face of the COVID-19 virus has shut down much of the world’s auto industry, Lotus remains confident it will be making the first customer deliveries of the Evija in 2020, although likely in the fourth quarter of the year rather than the originally planned third.
The company is facing some major challenges to get its first EV launched. Development work is largely suspended at present, although Lotus hopes it will be able to reopen the test track at its Hethel headquarters under social-distancing provisions soon, and ahead of the restart of wider operations there, which is currently scheduled for May 11.
But one of the biggest problems has been that of both showing the car to potential customers. A promotional tour of the U.S. East Coast was cut short by COVID-19 restrictions, as were one-on-one sessions planned to allow buyers to specify their cars. So although the company released images of its new state-of-the-art Evija configurator earlier in April, it is having to radically rethink how customers will get the chance to interact with it.
“We were originally going to do it on a physical machine—a 3D touchscreen configurator which actually needs a powerful laptop to run it,” Simon Clare, Lotus’s executive director of marketing, told Car and Driver in a telephone interview. “The whole process was meant to be based on a one-to-one experience, wherever the customer was, with us bringing the configurator to them as well as a case of physical samples.”
The configurator was designed by U.K. developer Realtime, using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4. As its name suggests, this is the software that lies at the heart of many successful video titles, but which also gives the ability to create photorealistic 3D renderings in real time. But with the idea of taking it directly to buyers on pause, so early Evija customers are being given the chance for live specification sessions through video conferencing.
“We’re looking at a way of screening it, still live and locked down, and within the next couple of weeks we think we’ll have a solution,” Clare said. But the restrictions also mean it will be possible for the sessions to include senior Lotus designers, up to and including design director Russell Carr.
“We can probably make it even better for customers, because Russell isn’t going to be able to travel the world, so what they could do now is a one-to-one online and have Russell in that conversation. If we know what they like beforehand, in terms of colors or some of their other cars, then Russell could probably preempt some of the conversations by giving them some ideas.”
Most choices will relate to color and trim. Lotus is offering 15 base colors for the Evija, but there will also be a color-matching process to give free rein to any buyer looking for a unique hue. Highlight packs will be offered allowing different areas, including the Evija’s huge venturi tunnels, to be painted in contrasting hues, in addition to the more discreet possibility of what is called a “pinstripe pack.” The Lotus badge on the Evija’s nose will be made using a marquetry process, laid into the carbon-fiber structure. Buyers will be able to opt to have this made from precious metal if they choose to, and will also be able to swap out the metallic Union Jack on the car’s A-pillar for another national flag or other insignia. The charging area also has a plaque that can be personalized.
While it won’t be a sumptuous limousine, Lotus is also planning to offer levels of customization for the Evija’s cabin that are unprecedented for the brand. Buyers will be able to choose color but also the material that different parts are made from, including both nubuck leather and microfiber. Metal elements can be anodized in different hues, and it will be possible for a band on the seats to include names or a slogan. There will also be both made-to-measure luggage bags and small pods to increase stowage space.
Lotus hasn’t released option pricing, but Clare reckoned that most choices won’t carry a significant premium over the Evija’s seven-figure base price, although true bespoke work may be expensive. “We’re getting quite a few requests like that,” he said. “If we can do it, if it’s safe to do so, we would like to try and deliver whatever the customer wants. I can’t say what that will cost yet, but if it involves engineering one-off parts, it could add quite a bit to the end price—but in terms of the defined options list it’s relatively tight.”
Clare previously worked for Sunseeker Yachts in the U.K., as well as Jaguar Land Rover and Bentley. He admits that the Evija’s price and novel powertrain have been attracting interest from mega-wealthy buyers who have previously not bought from the brand, but also says interest has come from existing owners with funds to allow them to buy what could well prove to be the world’s fastest-accelerating hypercar. (Lotus has previously said it is targeting a sub-three-second zero-to-60-mph time and a sub-nine-second zero-to-186-mph time, which would make it quicker than a Bugatti Chiron.)
The COVID lockdown has delayed the sales process, but Clare is still confident that Lotus will “absolutely” sell all of the 130 cars it plans to build. “The enthusiasm for the car has been phenomenal,” he said, “and there are lots of people who haven’t seen it yet because of this lockdown. We have got so many people who cannot wait to see the car; we’ve not done a tour of Europe yet, or much of the U.S. We’ve got a whole host of people who are more than capable of buying this car and desperate to see it. We just need to try and get the car to them.”