Lotus’ new CEO wants to return to motorsport, James Bond films

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Lotus has confirmed that former Jaguar Land Rover executive Phil Popham has been appointed Senior Vice-President of Group Lotus and CEO of Lotus sports cars, reporting directly to new(ish) chief executive Feng Qingfeng of Geely.

On the Briton’s to-do list? Increase sales. Return the British marque to motorsport. And lure James Bond back from Aston Martin.

Well, we’ve all been a bit overly ambitious during job interviews, haven’t we?

The former Jag exec steps into the breach left by Jean-Marc Gales in June this year, and arrives with a lucrative four-year tenure at the helm of luxury yacht maker Sunseeker International already behind him, plus nine years at Jaguar Land Rover, peaking with global sales director position in 2010.

Given the upturns in fortune for Volvo, also under the Geely umbrella, hopes are high that Lotus sports cars can begin turning a corner after a rough financial period. There’s considerable work to do before that though, of course, with Lotus now into its 70th year of operations.

Rumours concerning a Lotus SUV continue to build momentum, with development apparently already underway, and considerations being made whether the Volvo XC40 or XC60 will loan the underpinnings.

It surely won’t be too long either before we see new versions of both the Exige and the flagship Evora. The former is now six years into its ‘Series III’ iteration, while the latter has received a significant overhaul since its launch in 2009.

Returning to the track and the James Bond cinematic universe, though, are the big ones. Despite boasting six Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championships and seven Constructors’ crowns, ‘Lotus F1’ hasn’t been seen since its 2012 to 2015 tenure, during which the the team scored two wins with newly announced Sauber returnee Kimi Raikkonen. The less said about the debacle that was Lotus’ IndyCar program in 2012, the better.

Kevin Magnussen of Denmark and McLaren and Pastor Maldonado of Venezuela and Lotus drive during final practice ahead of the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 7, 2014 in Montreal, Canada. Mark Thompson / Getty Images

As for 007, the last Lotus vodka-martini’s favourite spokesperson was behind the wheel of was the Esprit Turbo, which the late Sir Roger Moore drove for all of 30 seconds on-screen. Some sign-off that, given that Lotus’ first Bond car – the hallowed Esprit S1 – became one of the most famous movie cars in history when it transformed into a submarine in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me.

Wrenching the 007 licence away from Aston Martin – which boasts the most famous movie car in history – will be tricky, though, given its British rival’s standing movie-deal with EON Productions.

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