Can niche brands survive?

Lotus, Bentley and Rolls Royce have all been affected differently by the coronavirus crisis

Chinese car making giant Geely, which also owns Volvo, has grand ambitions to become a truly global firm – and Lotus is set to play a key role in that as its flagship performance brand.

Geely had around £2.2 billion (AUD$4 billion) in cash reserves at the end of 2019, which helped it weather the immediate impact of the coronavirus in its home country. It has already invested heavily in Lotus, and there are no signs the pandemic will change that.

The Norfolk-based marque’s focus is on the forthcoming Evija electric hypercar and an SUV under development. Potential Evija buyers are unlikely to be deterred by the economic fallout of the crisis and, by the time the SUV arrives in 2022, Covid-19 should (hopefully) be a fading memory.

Are the highly prestigious Rolls-Royce and Bentley immune from the crisis?

While sales of luxury items traditionally hold up better during any crisis, no car maker is truly immune from the pandemic. Still, Britain’s luxury marques are equipped to emerge in decent shape.

Both often deal with customers directly, and this communication has continued during lockdown, lessening the impact of showroom closures. Rolls-Royce hasn’t experienced any significant rise in order cancellations due to the crisis, with Alex Innes, the firm’s head of coachbuild design, claiming that customers had more time to invest in choosing and customising their future cars.

Bentley boss Adrian Hallmark says the firm has already sold around 80% of its 2020 production when it halted the line, and with cancellations “very low” resumed with a stack of orders to fulfil.

In both cases, the relatively low output reduces both the impact of the factory shutdown and the reduction in output due to social distancing. Plus, both have the backing of well-placed German giants, in BMW and the Volkswagen Group.

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