Take two ex-Lotus Engineering alumni, mix in a name from the birth of the auto industry in Detroit, and what do you get? A Detroit Electric sports car. Albert Lam, former Group CEO of Lotus Engineering and Executive Director of Lotus Cars, and Don Graunstadt, former head of Lotus Engineering’s US operations, have announced plans to build 2500 electric sports cars in a dedicated Michigan production facility, and the opening of corporate headquarters in Detroit’s Fisher Building. Production of the new EV is expected to begin in August.
Lam, who revived the Detroit Electric brand in 2008, is the Chairman and Group CEO for Detroit Electric. He says the company will use an ‘asset light’ business model, and focus its efforts on R&D and marketing. All other disciplines will be “bought in” where possible, reducing the money, time and effort Detroit Electric has to spend on the development of new models and technologies.
Thus, off-the-shelf components will be adapted to the vehicles, with integration and software development the responsibility of the staff of Detroit Electric and its subcontractors. Over the next 12 months the automaker says it will create up to 180 sales and manufacturing-related jobs. It plans to build 999 cars, conveniently one less than the number that would prevent the company from asking for waivers from some of the more onerous US safety standards, such as the use of ‘smart’ airbags.
CEO of North American Operations Don Graunstadt will oversee the production facility, R&D and marketing personnel, so getting the car into production will be his responsibility. However, Detroit Electric says it will announce a partnership with ‘a global manufacturer’ at the Shanghai Motor Show on 20 April. Though Lotus provided the Elise as a base for the initial car, you can expect Lam to use his Chinese contacts to provide the platform for the sedans that follow.
Though the Elise is no longer sold in the US due to the conclusion of the waivers Lotus received from the US government a decade ago, this does not prevent Detroit Electric from selling the car outside of the country should it not receive new waivers from the US government. In addition, much of the work that went into turning the Elise into the Tesla Roadster has been used to as a starting point to update the Detroit Electric SP:01’s Elise chassis for electrification. Doing this will allow it to stay true to its plans to sell the sports car in ‘many of Detroit Electric’s target markets by the end of August 2013.’ Two other high-performance models are under consideration for sale by 2015, and may include an electrified Lotus Evora.