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Lotus Cars is a British manufacturer of sports and racing cars based at Hethel, Norfolk, England. The company designs and builds race and production automobiles of light weight and high handling characteristics.
The company was formed as Lotus Engineering Ltd. by engineer Colin Chapman, a graduate of University College, London, in 1952. The first factory was in old stables behind the Railway Hotel in Hornsey. Team Lotus, which was split off from Lotus Engineering in 1954, was active and competitive in Formula One racing from 1958 to 1994. The Lotus Group of Companies was formed in 1959. This was made up of Lotus Cars Limited and Lotus Components Limited which focussed on road car and customer competition car production respectively. Lotus Components Limited became Lotus Racing Limited in 1971 but the newly renamed entity ceased operation in the same year.
The company moved to a purpose built factory at Cheshunt in 1959 and since 1966 the company has occupied a modern factory and road test facility at Hethel, near Wymondham. This site is the former RAF Hethel base and the test track uses sections of the old runway.
Chapman died of a heart attack in 1982, at the age of 54, having begun life an inn-keeper's son and ended a multi-millionaire industrialist in post-war Britain. The carmaker built tens of thousands of successful racing and road cars and won the Formula One World Championship seven times. At the time of his death he was linked with the DeLorean scandal over the use of government subsidies for the production of the De Lorean DMC-12 for which Lotus had designed the chassis.
In 1986 the company was bought by General Motors. On August 27, 1993, GM sold the company, for £30 million, to A.C.B.N. Holdings S.A. of Luxembourg, a company controlled by Italian businessman Romano Artioli, who also owned Bugatti Automobili SpA. In 1996 a majority share in Lotus was sold to Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd (Proton), a Malaysian car company listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange.
The company also acts as an engineering consultancy, providing engineering developmentparticularly of suspensionfor other car manufacturers. The lesser known Powertrain department is responsible for the design and development of the 4 cylinder engine found in many of GM's Vauxhall, Opel, Saab, and possibly some Saturn cars. It should however be noted that the current Lotus Elise and Exige models use the 1.8L VVTL-i I4 from Toyota's late Celica GT-S and the Matrix XRS.