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3 November, 2011 - 12:32 By News Desk

Lotus to pump £85m into Norfolk facility

Hollywood stars, the Baldwin brothers showcase Lotus’ star quality at a Los Angeles party last year

Norfolk carmaker Group Lotus has unveiled a £1/2 billion blueprint to turn the business into a world leading sports car producer and engineering hothouse.

CEO Danny Bahar told Business Weekly that he wanted Lotus to be known globally as “a proper sportscar manufacturer” – right up there with Maserati, Aston Martin, Porsche and Bentley.

As an ex-Ferrari man, Bahar certainly knows the market. He revealed that £85m would be pumped into upgrading the group’s Hethel engineer facility and production lines.

It will safeguard positions – and could create hundreds of new jobs over time – at Hethel.

The size of the planned investment puts into context the £10m the Government is believed to have loaned the business out of the Regional Growth Fund. Lotus had originally asked for £30m to ensure Lotus stayed in the region.

Bahar says the group’s owner was seeking a token of support – a signal from the Government that it was keen to see the venture grow from a UK base.

“I don’t think it’s about money. We’re investing £1/2bn in the next five years so £10m in the grand scheme of things is not going to make or break it.

“It’s good to have a significant endorsement from the British Government that what we are doing and proposing to do are right. We are creating jobs in this region – manufacturing jobs, which are like gold dust to the UK so it was important for us to get a positive signal.

“What we want is to take the company and turn it into a proper sportscar manufacturer with proper volumes and value and to grow the influence of the engineering side of the business. We have to think globally and have to be ready to compete at the very top end of the luxury market alongside Maserati, Aston Martin, Porsche and Bentley.

“We are also a major automotive engineering business, pushing back the frontiers of automotive design with lighter, cleaner, greener cars. We employ 700 engineers and that could rise to over 1,000 engineers: that’s a considerable-sized operation anywhere in the world and a wonderful advertisement for this region and for the UK.

“Engineering excellence has always been important to the company; we are maintaining the legacy of Colin Chapman and the early pioneers of the business. It’s part of our DNA. For the last 10 years that side of the business has been growing at double digit pace.

“We’ve hired a further 100 engineers in the last few months. We will invest £85m in the next two-three years in upgrading the facilities at Hethel. They will be state-of-the-art.

“We will continue to innovate in all areas of the business, to stay at the cutting edge in discovering alternative solutions to engineering problems. That commitment sets us apart.”

• Hollywood stars, the Baldwin brothers showcase Lotus’ star quality at a Los Angeles party last year

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