Lotus plans new focus on heritage

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Lotus customer experience center will have a dramatic design | Group Lotus illustrations

As it celebrates its 70th anniversary, Group Lotus has announced plans for a new customer experience center and a heritage center and museum at Hethel, its British home for more than 50 of those 70 years.

Lotus celebrates its 70th anniversary on September 29 and will livestream those festivities on a special YouTube channel starting at 10 a.m. British time.

The plan includes the renovation of the company’s original buildings, including Colin Chapman’s office as part of the re-development that it hopes will turn the 100-acre former Royal Air Force site into a destination for auto enthusiasts.

The plan includes a large modern restaurant shared by visitors and Lotus staff.

Architect’s rendering of the new heritage center and museum

“The progress of these developments at Hethel demonstrates our commitment to Lotus and its bright future,” said Group Lotus chief executive Feng Qingfeng. “Hethel is rightly the center of the brand and what better place for customers, aspiring owners and staff to experience our values? Hethel is, and will always be, the heart of Lotus and our plans are the next step in readying the site for the next 50 years.”

In addition to being chief executive of Group Lotus, Feng Qingfeng is vice president and chief technical officer of Zhejiang Geely, a Chinese holding company with extensive automotive properties, including Volvo and Lotus.

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Though part of a larger company (Geely subsidiary Proton), Lotus vehicles are manufactured at Hethel, which also was the base for Chapman’s famed Team Lotus racing effort.

Lotus is using Exige 270E Tri-Fuel prototype to explore options for fueling future vehicles | Group Lotus photo

The current lineup of Lotus sports cars includes the Evora, Elise, Exige and 3-Eleven.

According to the company’s announcement, “The new purpose-built Customer Experience Centre will be located alongside the pit lane of the famous test track to create a focal point at Hethel and afford fantastic views across the entire site.

“Showcasing the Lotus brand and its range of vehicles, it will provide a destination for customers as they develop the specification for, and later return to take delivery of, their vehicles. 

“With a two-story display area, the building will include private vehicle specification salons and delivery areas, as well as preparation and service facilities.

“An impressive Heritage Centre and Museum will also be created, incorporating the site’s original main office and executive suites… (to) allow visitors and staff to experience the history and heritage at the heart of Lotus.”

Architectural plans for the renovation include improvements to the existing clubhouse — the former RAF control tower — which will become the home for track-based activities.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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