This story emerged a few days ago, and it has taken that long for me to think about what it might mean to MD’s readers. It sounds sexy, of course, with descriptions of a planned “Lotus” production motorcycle that include phrases like “integrated racing technology” and “200 horsepower”. Lotus was originally created by Colin Chapman in the early 1950s. Chapman was a British engineer that obsessed over performance, most often embodied in minimalist, extremely light automobiles and race cars. The brand became known for production automobiles, as well as racing at the highest level in Formula One.
The original Lotus followed a road not unfamiliar to some other brands affiliated with brilliant, obsessed designers, which, at times, included both stunning execution and financial difficulties. Chapman is now deceased and the brand is again found (under successor owners) on both production sports cars, and F1 race cars (including one piloted by former F1 world champ Kimi Raikkonen).
You can read the available details in the press release below, but I wanted to offer my own observations at the same time based on a few decades observing the motorcycle industry. This endeavor, although a joint venture of undoubtedly capable and talented individuals and business entities (apparently licensing the Lotus name) will face significant hurdles familiar to several others who have attempted to launch super-premium motorcycle brands.
While wealthy automobile enthusiasts support companies like Ferrari in the four-wheel universe, in my experience as an industry observer, the formidable challenges of (1) effective R&D, (2) timely production, (3) dealer network development, (4) sustaining sufficient parts and service availability, and (5) maintaining the relentless pace of new model development frequently are too much for low volume motorcycle start-ups aiming for Ferrari-class performance and desirabilty. Super premium motorcycles represent an extremely small niche market. A market already served by the upper tier models from established manufacturers like MV Agusta and Ducati.
The Lotus name will help, of course, and the first motorcycle planned by Lotus Motorcycles sounds quite exciting. I should also note it is unclear when I read the press release whether only one motorcycle is planned or whether this is the beginning of a long-term endeavor. We wish the venture every opportunity for success, but we thought our readers should have some added perspective while reading the press release.
Here is the Lotus Motorcycles press release:
Lotus Motorcycles to build its own and first ever motorcycle
Lotus Motorcycles was established to design and build the first motorcycle of the iconic car manufacturer. The bike will be named Lotus C-01 and will be the most impressive appearance on public roads on two wheels. It will reflect a combination of lifestyle, design and high end technology.
Lotus Motorcycles is a joint project of Kodewa, car designer Daniel Simon and the Holzer Group. The Lotus C-01 will be a hyper bike with integrated racing technology. It will be manufactured of materials like carbon, titanium and aerospace quality steel, which are also used in Formula 1. Safety, ergonomics and design are the most important factors the design team has put emphasis on. It will be a state of the art motorbike powered by an approximately 200 horsepower engine.
Kodewa has recently built the new sports car Lotus T128 LMP (Le Mans Prototype) and is running the Lotus LMP2 program in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The team of Kodewa comprises of experts with a lot of knowledge and experience not only in endurance racing but also Formula 1, DTM and lower formulas.
The unique shapes of Lotus Motorcycles will be penned by renowned designer Daniel Simon. Simon, a former designer for Bugatti Automobiles, has lately been responsible for some of the most sophisticated concept vehicles in Hollywood film history. Amongst his most recognizable contributions are the ‘Lightcycle’ in the 2010 Disney motion picture ‘Tron: Legacy’ and the ‘Bubbleship’ used by Tom Cruise in the recent Universal Sci-Fi hit ‘Oblivion’. The German was also designing the famous black and gold livery of the Lotus LMP2 sports cars.
Daniel Simon is known for his clean and holistic concepts. The designer says: “With the Lotus C-01, we have only one ambition: to create a unique state-of-the-art machine that carries its brutal forces with elegance and style, a high-tech monster in a tailored suit. The C-01, with all its top notch components and materials, is first and foremost emotional, heartbreaking, at times playfully retro, and always clearly a Lotus. Lotus is a glamorous name with a rich history, and the C-01 celebrates it proudly: the shapes of the marvelous Lotus 49 were a main inspiration, and all color schemes pay homage to iconic Lotus racing liveries, such as the dashing black and gold. The intersection of past and future never fails to fascinate, and so does the unique idea of the C-01.”
Within the Holzer Group, the Performance GmbH is involved in the development process. The components made of titanium, carbon fibre and aerospace steel will be produced by RPC GmbH, which is also part of Holzer Group and Kodewa. Latest CNC machines linked with CAM workstations ensure highest precision and optimal workflow of the complex procedures. Because of quality inspections before, during and after the production process, a safety-related and faultless production is ensured.
In the next few weeks, images of Lotus Motorcycles will be released and will give a first insight into what to expect from the new Lotus C-01.