While not exactly ‘same again’ for Lotus, Evija evinces a familiar supercar style
Norfolk-based sportscar manufacturer, Lotus, is promising customers of its cut above electric hypercar an intriguing experiential programme, highlights Iain Robertson, of an order that is sure to be instrumental in changing the face of future car retailing.
As a car-mad child, I often found it difficult to differentiate between popular makes and models. Yet, sportscars seldom presented similar issues and Lotus was among a smattering of manufacturers that produced uniquely appealing two and occasional four-seater variants. Models like the Europa, often referred to as the ‘Breadvan’ Lotus for its flanks that ‘concealed’ the location of its mid-mounted Renault engine, contrasted with the tiny but effortless beauty of the Elan and later, larger Elite, Eclat and Esprit models.
Today confusion still reigns supreme but has shifted from the run-of-the-mill classes to the more exclusive super and hypercar series. Naturally, Lotus’s design team knows its onions but were any one of the 130 planned new Evijas to pass you on the street, in de-badged form, I guarantee that you might not tell it apart from a McLaren, or any one of the most recent plethora of all-electric hypercars, let alone the latest Ford GT, with which it ‘shares’ so many little styling nuances.
While I am almost certain that, unlike in the days prior to CAD-CAM design capabilities, when independent players such as Wolseley, Morris, Austin, Vauxhall, Hilman and Ford were building to both predetermined dimension and market price considerations, none of the carmakers mentioned in the previous paragraph ought to be creating ‘replicas’, they are now every bit as ‘confused’, or confusing. When you consider the six to seven figure recommended retail prices being charged by this low volume but growing segment of the new car scene, to be frank, I think that more brand individualism should be encountered and not less. Porsche continues to lead in this respect, in standout form.
Yet, overcoming any style shortfall, Lotus is determined to create a ‘different’ buying experience for its Evija customers and it is one that I believe will display significant merit across the broader motor industry, which is being affected grimly by the impact of COVID-19. An ability to tailor a car’s build, at a time when personalisation is rife, is not just a key differentiator but might also signal a broader market change that could obviate a need for expensive dealerships and overarching glossiness in selected regions.
Lotus is not alone in wishing to create exclusivity and an unique ‘journey’ for each of its monied customers. The company is already reporting that requests for personalisation on every aspect of the 2000hp hypercar, from striking exterior paint colour combinations to highly detailed interior trim, are all part of an enhanced ordering process. While the actual numbers remain very small for a car set to commence production later this year, which can make incorporating ‘special requests’ somewhat easier, the initial 12 months’ allocation is already fully subscribed worldwide.
To the customer, the starting point for every Evija’s specification is an all-new touch-screen configurator. Designed especially for Lotus, its ultra-powerful graphics processor creates stunning high-definition, ‘photo-realistic’ images and animations. As you might expect, it has been developed using advanced gaming software, which underscores a more mature creative approach from a group of electronic ‘inventors’ that we might have elected to ignore in the past. How the potential buyers can gain access to these screens is not mentioned at this stage but, you can rest assured, it will not be restricted to factory visits. The software allows the buyer to build and personalise their own car from the ground up and to visualise it from every angle, both inside and out.
Thanks to an advanced imaging technique known as ‘ray-tracing’, the customer can even place their Evija into multiple environments around the world to see how localised sunlight levels might affect their choices. The final element is the creation of a fully personalised ‘360-degree fly-through’ video, which is exclusive to each customer. ‘Exclusivity’ is the key aspiration here, as already stated, as it should be for such a high-cost product.
Each picture of the Evija that you can see here is an image-capture from the configurator, which serves to emphasise the high-definition quality. The car is set inside the Lotus Design studios, at Hethel, near Norwich, the global home of Lotus Cars and Lotus Engineering since 1966. Finished in a perfect Atomic Red with Carbon Black accent pack, on the configurator, the images are accompanied by a new animation, which reveals the car additionally in Solaris Yellow and Carbon Black schemes.
Naturally, the configurator is one tiny but key element of the Evija consumer experience. The company intends, at regular intervals during the purchase process, that each customer will receive an unique gift that reflects the exclusive and technical nature of the hypercar. While a battery cell, or polished wheel-nut, are unlikely to be on that gift list, it is intended that a beautiful, hand-crafted build book will provide a generous photographic record of the customer’s individual car, during key moments of its assembly. The book will be presented to the customer with their Evija key-fob, as part of the handover celebration. It is a practice already explored and delivered most successfully in the classic car scene.
Simon Clare, Executive Director, Global Marketing, Lotus, said: “We recognise that every customer journey will be unique and our highly experienced customer relations team is ready to support any requests. With state-of-the-art digital tools, such as the new configurator, we can accommodate customer preferences and requirements from anywhere in the world at the touch of a button.”
Of course, all of this planning is pie-in-the-sky at present but the implications of ongoing ‘social distancing’, which has been suggested could last until 2022, could mean that the ‘customer experience’ aspect might be adopted by more than just a few manufacturers from the specialist sector, such as Lotus. More widespread applications will reduce cost overheads and may even lead into specific apps being formulated for mainstream players. The implications are huge.
Conclusion: Lotus is travelling the ‘extra mile’ to create a successful formula to satisfy its customers’ demands. Clever management and investment could witness wider adoption and a little, Chinese-funded player from Norfolk would be the instigation.