Famous British sports car and Formula One brand Lotus is sharing floor space at its first official outlet in New Zealand with Italy’s Maserati.
Both exotic badges are distributed here by European Automotive Imports, one of ex-pat New Zealand businessman Neville Crichton’s companies.
Lotus Auckland and its line-up of Elise, Exige S and Evora models has opened for business in Newmarket, roughly three years after Crichton was first linked with a new Lotus initiative in this part of the world.
“It has always been our plan to launch Lotus in New Zealand as part of our business on both sides of the Tasman,” said Crichton.
“However, before doing so we wanted to ensure that the full range of Lotus models was correctly positioned for the New Zealand market in terms of price and equipment.”
The entry-level Lotus is the third-generation Elise, available from $86,990 for the naturally aspirated 100kW example and $96,990 for the 162kW supercharged Elise S.
The Elise first appeared in 1996 and quickly gained a foothold in the market, to the point where the range accounts for 42 per cent of sales worldwide.
The Exige S is the flyer in the line-up, a sub-1200kg weight and a supercharged 3.5-litre 257kW/400Nm V6 engine combining to launch the car from zero to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds and to 160km/h in 8.5 seconds. It is priced from $131,990.
The bigger Evora is the first all-new Lotus since the Elise. The mid-engined 2+2 comes in four variants – two using a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 making 206kW, and two using the boosted 257kW Exige S engine.
The standard Evora weighs 1382kg and comes with the choice of two transmissions – a six-speed manual ($129,990) or six-speed sequential ($145,990). Evora S buyers get the same choice – the manual at $153,990, or the sequential at $165,990.
Crichton’s link with Lotus began when he and a couple of his executives made a surprise appearance on the Lotus stand at the Paris motor show in 2010, when then Lotus CEO Dany Bahar unveiled an ambitious 10-year, NZ$1.6 billion plan for five new models, starting with the supercar Esprit.
The Crichton team’s presence in the Lotus inner circle was indeed a surprise – at the time he was the Ferrari distributor for New Zealand and Australia.
But the world of Ferrari and Lotus was changing. Ferrari’s operation Downunder would soon become a factory-owned franchise, ending Crichton’s seven-year association, and Lotus’ global sales network would be overhauled, paving the way for Crichton to handle New Zealand and Australia.
Mid-way through 2011 Bahar was gone, two years after being appointed CEO. The board of Malaysian-owned Lotus fired the former Ferrari executive, after investigating a complaint about his behaviour.
The board then quickly pared back the planned new model turn-out. A year ago, Bahar filed a NZ$13 million claim for wrongful dismissal against Lotus and its Malaysian parent, DRB-Hicom.