Chinese automaker Geely, which has breathed new life into Volvo since taking over in 2010, is adding another storied European car brand to its stable: Lotus Cars.
Geely is getting 51 percent of sports and racing car maker Lotus as part of its deal to buy a 49.9 percent stake in Proton, a struggling Southeast Asian automaker, from Malaysian-based parent DRB-Hicom.
Lotus is in dire need of a cash infusion to create new vehicles for a lineup currently limited to four aging sports cars. The Elise has roots that go back to 1996. The Evora 400, now the only U.S. street model, first rolled out almost a decade ago.
The brand has a long, proud history in sports cars and in motor racing, but has struggled in recent decades, including briefly pulling its last model out of the U.S. in 2014 before returning last year. And its Lotus Engineering arm has a long history of innovation in lightweight chassis and suspension and powertrain development, both with its own cars and working as a supplier and collaborator with other automakers, such as Toyota and GM. The Elise also was used as the basis for the original Tesla Roadster electric car. Since the 1980s, however, it has suffered through successive financial problems and ownership until it ended up with Proton.
Geely could give Lotus deep pockets for new products, as it provided for the revival of Volvo. It also could provide access to Volvo's sophisticated safety, connectivity and electrified vehicle technology, as well as to economies of scale from supplier sharing. And Volvo could benefit from Lotus' expertise in lightweighting and vehicle dynamics.