In its quest to gain a loftier status among the sporty, well-to-do set, Lotus Cars spent the year poaching talent from other British automakers. China’s Geely, which holds a majority stake in the automaker, is expected to loosen the purse strings in pursuit of new models and a greater premium market share, but the human side of the operation needs to be in place before that occurs.
While former Bentley and Aston Martin execs have already hopped on board, the automaker now has a former top Jaguar Land Rover official in the big office, ready to put plans into action. He’s also no stranger to SUVs — a segment Lotus wants a piece of.
Phil Popham, who joined Land Rover in 1988 and finished his stint at the unified Jaguar Land Rover in 2014, was named the new CEO of Lotus on Friday. During his time at JLR, he rose through the ranks to become managing director of operations for JLR UK, then took the role of managing director for global operations. At Lotus, he joins other recent hires from the British auto industry, including new product strategy boss Uday Senapati, formerly of Bentley and JLR, who joined the company 10 days ago.
Marcus Blake, formerly of Aston Martin, showed up at Lotus earlier in the year to handle the automaker’s commercial operation.
Popham’s first day of work is October 1st, when he’ll relieve current Group Lotus CEO Feng Qingfeng in the the Lotus Cars CEO role. Feng has worn two hats since the departure of Jean-Marc Gales in June. Once Popham’s installed, maybe we’ll see Geely unleash the nearly $2 billion it’s setting aside for the automaker’s expansion.
“I am delighted that Phil has joined Lotus at this important time in our 70 year history,” said Feng in a statement. “We are growing the Lotus business not only at our headquarters in Hethel, Norfolk but also worldwide so the foundations are laid to become a globally competitive brand and a well recognised leader in the sports car market.”
Earlier this year, Lotus announced the hiring of 300 employees to handle the creation of two new sports cars, as well as an SUV (something no modern automaker can do without). The two cars should appear by 2020, with the SUV arriving within a four-year window.
[Image: Lotus Cars]