All-new Lotus Emira pre-production commences following £100million investment in UK facilities
Lotus Emira production facility, Hethel
Another milestone in Lotus’ Vision80 journey is reached as Emira pre-production gets underway and further details of the substantial investments made in UK operations are revealed.
Total investment in UK facilities now stands at more than £100 million, which includes two new production halls at the company’s iconic home in Hethel, Norfolk. One is now in pre-production for the Emira, the all-new Lotus sports car to be unveiled at Hethel on Tuesday 6 July. The other, for the Evija all-electric hypercar, has completed prototype production and first customer cars will be built later this year.
Hethel – the Lotus Advanced Performance Centre – has also benefitted from an all-new high tech automated paint shop, a retail design studio to highlight the new visual identity for the business’s expanding retail network and a new on-site restaurant. This follows investment made last year to upgrade the legendary Lotus test track and equip engineering workshops with equipment to further support electric vehicle development.
The workforce at Lotus’ Norfolk sites at Hethel and Norwich has almost doubled since October 2017 when Geely became the majority shareholder. With the launch of Emira, Lotus is creating more than 200 new operations roles and recruitment is now under way. Additional investment has been made at Lotus’ other UK sites, including all-new facilities in nearby Norwich, and in the Midlands in partnership with the University of Warwick.
Every pound spent has been with the clear target of further enhancing the technology, quality, efficiency and sustainability behind production of Lotus cars and the services offered by Lotus Engineering, the consultancy division of the business.
Investment by Lotus in the all-new factory for Emira production include:
- All-new Automatically Guided Vehicles (AGVs): AGVs allow for the highly efficient movement of cars in build on set routes around the factory, allowing operations colleagues to focus on assembling the vehicles. Routes are easily reprogrammed, creating a flexible and future-proof approach to Lotus sports car manufacturing. Each AGV has a height adjustment system so operators can position the car on it at exactly the right ergonomic height for them
All-new framing line: Now operational, the framing line is building car bodies as part of Emira pre-production, with robots applying bonding agent to the sides, roof and cantrails.
- All-new paint shop: This state-of-the art facility supports robotised paint application, a first for Lotus in more than seven decades of car manufacture that will improve quality and through-put of vehicles. It also features other innovative technologies, such as a combined primer and clearcoat line. The system is highly efficient; dry filtration uses 60% less energy than a wet system, while an electrostatic primer on body panels will reduce paint usage by 30-40%. Installation is almost complete and the facility has been locked down during May while deep cleaning takes place. ‘Dry’ commissioning will commence shortly so the physical systems – eg, conveyors, transfers, lifts, ovens – can be tested. ‘Wet’ commissioning will follow later in the summer.
The entire Sports Car Operations production facility is powered by 100% renewable electricity thanks to a partnership with energy supplied Centrica.
Matt Windle, Managing Director, Lotus Cars (front, blue shirt), members of the Lotus senior management team and operations colleagues pictured as the first Emira chassis starts its journey down the all-new Sports Car Operations production line at Hethel.
David Hewitt, Executive Director, Operations, Lotus, said: “The move to a part-robotised production is the right one for Lotus as we launch the Emira. Everything is about repeatability and efficiency to drive quality. Our workforce is incredibly skilled, and robots help them to deliver the consistency we need at the volume we need it.”
David added: “Our cars will remain ‘Handmade in Hethel’, though our people will be supported by new processes and technologies that will only enhance efficiency and build quality. It is a ‘best of both worlds’ solution.”
There is further investment at Hethel in the Evija production hall, where the project team is ramping up work as the car moves towards full production later this year. In addition, Hethel now has an all-new restaurant for both Lotus colleagues working on site and any visitors. Lotus has partnered with another iconic Norfolk name – TV chef and author Delia Smith – to provide a high-quality and value-for-money catering service.
One end of the restaurant building is now home to the Lotus Retail Design Studio, showcasing the company’s new visual identity for showrooms. This is now being rolled out in Lotus retail outlets around the world.