BEIJING : British sportscar maker Lotus plans to open up to 70 showrooms in China by 2024 and start production at its new Wuhan factory next year to ramp up competition with rival Porsche, Chief Executive Feng Qingfeng told Reuters on Tuesday.
Premium and luxury car sales are growing in China as coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions leave consumers in the world's biggest car market with more money to spend.
Feng said Lotus, which is owned by Chinese firm Geely and Malaysia's Etika Automotive, will begin production at its Wuhan factory next year, producing around 2,000 compact SUVs.
The plant, which is still under construction, would ramp up to full production of 20,000 cars in 2023, Feng told Reuters in a telephone call from Hangzhou, where Geely is headquartered.
The cars will be positioned in a similar segment to rival Porsche and higher than BMW and Audi, Feng said. Porsche has said it sold 88,968 cars in China last year thanks to demand for its Macan compact sports-utility vehicle.
Feng said Lotus will open more than 20 showrooms next year, first targeting major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. It will expand the network further over 2023 and 2024 to include cities like eastern Suzhou and Ningbo for a total of 50-70 showrooms around the country.
Lotus, the maker of the Lotus Esprit, famously driven by James Bond in 1977's "The Spy Who Loved Me", has four showrooms in China, according to its website.
Lotus said its Wuhan-based technology unit recently received an undisclosed investment from Nio Capital, an investment firm founded by the chief executive of leading Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio Inc. The technology unit is valued at 15 billion yuan (US$2.32 billion).
Lotus Technology is studying a possible initial public offering, potentially in New York, Hong Kong or London, as soon as 2023 when it would start mass-production in its Wuhan factory, Feng said.
(US$1 = 6.4558 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh; editing by Jane Wardell)