The Chinese owner of Lotus plans to start producing the British sports car brand in China for the first time with the opening of a new 9 billion yuan ($1.3 billion) factory in Wuhan city, company job advertisements and government documents showed.
The previously unreported plans are Zhejiang Geely's first move to shake up the British brand since its purchase of a majority stake in 2017.
The move is in line with Geely's ambitions to build more up-market cars and throw off its reputation for copycat designs and shoddy quality. For Lotus, it could mean greater production volumes and new models such as SUVs to boost sales.
"For Geely, going high-end can help it take more market share," said Alan Kang, Shanghai based analyst at LMC Automotive. "Geely needs to do that to better compete with global brands."
Lotus cars are currently built in Norfolk, England. Geely and Lotus said in a joint statement that while Norfolk was Lotus's manufacturing home, a key part of the firm's strategy to revive the brand was expanding the brand's manufacturing footprint globally.
"Details on additional locations and models will be confirmed in due course," the company said in an e-mail to Reuters.
The planning authority of Hubei province, whose capital is Wuhan, last month approved Geely's plans for the plant. The factory will be able to manufacture 150,000 cars annually, according to a document posted on the authority's website.
The Wuhan Development Zone, where the factory will be based, said in a statement posted on its website last month that production at the plant would include "Geely's Lotus project".
The Wuhan Development Zone did not respond to Reuters' request for comment.
The documents did not say when the plant would start operations. The facility is approved to build all-electric battery cars, electric hybrids as well as combustion engine cars like Lotuses.
Job advertisements on Geely's website show the automaker is looking to fill at least 20 Wuhan-based roles for the Lotus project.