New managing director has a full inbox – and umpteen challenges ahead
By Nic Cackett / Thursday, January 28, 2021 / Loading comments
Phil Popham has stepped down from his position as Lotus boss and will be replaced by Matt Windle, formerly the firm’s Executive Director, Engineering. Popham, who guided the firm through its comprehensive restructuring under Geely, is leaving to "pursue personal projects". His replacement, who began his career at Lotus in 1998 and has since enjoyed stints at Caterham, Tesla and Volvo, will now be expected to carry the firm forward into a new era.
Commenting on his appointment, Windle (pictured right, next to Popham) said: “It is an honour to be appointed Managing Director of Lotus. Of the many manufacturers I have worked with over the years, Lotus has been the one closest to my heart. I have a history with the company dating back more than 20 years and I really know my way around the business. This period since 2018 has been the most exciting of my career and the scale of the global opportunity ahead of us is both inspiring and all-consuming.”
Windle will have multiple challenges to immediately look forward to. The first thing in the in-tray is the completion and launch of the Evija electric hypercar – the halo-grade project that Lotus used to signal its rejuvenation. Secondly, there’s the small matter of the Type 131 sports car, the just-announced all-new model which will have the critical job of replacing the Elise, Exige and Evora in the coming months. Then there’s a cluster of new or refurbished manufacturing sites to worry about. And the future beyond 2021.
It’s quite the brief, and its comparative rosiness owes much to his predecessor’s time in the hot seat. Popham was a JLR veteran, but had been the CEO of Sunseeker for four years before taking the Lotus job – one of raft of new appointments charged with turning the ailing manufacturer around. The Vision80 strategy was instituted under his leadership, and he had the unenviable job of steering Lotus through fundamental change while a global pandemic raged.
His successor remarked: “I am proud to follow Phil into the leadership position and he has left a great foundation for me and the team to build on. I thank Phil for his friendship and support of the past years. I am proud to represent our shareholders Geely and Etika as I continue to work with our talented and dedicated team to fulfil the ambition for this wonderful brand and business around the world.”
Windle’s 30 years of experience as an engineer will doubtless serve him well in a company as technology focused as Lotus – especially as it aims to vault the chasm between building lightweight, petrol-powered sports cars and whatever comes next. Mr Feng Qingfeng, CEO, Group Lotus, and himself a former engineer, added: “Our future is extremely bright indeed, with new designs, new technologies and new markets for us to leverage with this precious brand.” He added: “I also welcome Matt Windle into the role of Managing Director. I very much look forward to continuing to work with him and the UK team as we expand both Lotus and Lotus Engineering across the world into a new era for the business.”
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