Jean-Marc Gales, the former No. 2 at PSA Peugeot Citroen who took over in May as CEO of Group Lotus, faces major challenges at the struggling British sports car maker.
The Malaysian-owned company lost $256 million in its fiscal year ended March 31, 2013, and $185 million the year before. Gales did not disclose the number for 2014 but said, "We will return to profitability in the very foreseeable future."
Lotus is cutting up to 325 of its 1,215 employees worldwide to help reduce costs and stem losses.
Gales, 52, who is from Luxembourg, fills a post vacant since Dany Bahar was fired in 2012. Gales told Automotive News Europe U.K. Correspondent Nick Gibbs in September that his next task is to add dealers.
Q: What are your priorities for Lotus?
A: The focus has been on the commercial side, making sure we sell more cars, provide better coverage via our dealer network and develop a more precise marketing program. We also have restructured the whole company and given program management more power.
How is it going?
In the first four months of this financial year [which started April], we sold 46 percent more cars, but that's still not sufficient to guarantee our future. We need to continue to reduce costs, and we are fully aware of the hardship that brings for our work force.
Many people are passionate about Lotus cars. Why doesn't that translate into more sales?
One reason is that we don't have enough dealers, even in the U.K. There is no dealer in London, and nor is there in Paris, Madrid, northern Italy, Hamburg or Berlin. More dealers drive more sales. We have opened nine new dealers worldwide over the past six months, and I would not exclude having 20 more dealers in this financial year.
Is Lotus only about sports cars, or can the brand extend to other segments?
Lotus is about pure driving. We decided to get back to the philosophy of our founder, Colin Chapman, that lighter and simpler is better. There are three characteristics of the product: dynamic excellence, lightweight efficiency and distinctive styling. All our new products will reflect this -- and you can attach these values to any segment you can imagine.
Does Lotus need a new platform?
We will stick with the aluminum tub chassis, which is a very modern construction, but we will make it easier to get into and out of and make it even more rigid.
So no new models?
Within the next nine months, there will be a couple of announcements of product enhancements that will make the heart of any Lotus enthusiast beat faster.
How long will it take to return Lotus to profit?
We will return to profitability in the very foreseeable future. That's absolutely the target.
The last Lotus CEO, Dany Bahar, unveiled five dramatic concepts in Paris four years ago. Did anything survive from them?
No -- nothing. They were not ready for any form of serious production.
Is Lotus still developing a V-8 engine?
No. We cannot afford to build our own engines, so we will continue to use engines developed by volume manufacturers and make them better. We are happy with our current relationship with Toyota.
What attracted you to Lotus?
I've known Lotus almost since I could walk. The Elite launched in 1974 was my dream car at that time. It's an iconic brand that has a real heritage. I really believe you can build a lot with the brand, but with a dose of realism. It was the challenge of realizing that potential that attracted me.