It was only a few short weeks ago that I wrote about—what seemed to be—Toyota playing Goliath to Lotus' (formidable) David.
Now (well, yesterday) the boys at Autoblog are reporting that the 2014 production version of the Lotus Elite concept (shown, above) might be using Toyota's hybrid system, and NOT Lotus' own innovative Omnivore range-extending system from the Evora 414E shown at Geneva earlier this year… an interesting development, to say the least.
What does this mean for my pet theory about Toyota forcing itself on Lotus? I think I'm right, and this move is all about Toyota forcing Lotus (which already relies on Toyota for its ICE engines) to play ball—which, in this case, means Toyota wants Lotus to publicly acknowledge Toyota as the world leader in hybrid technology.
At this point, this is all speculation—but the more I dig the more it seems like there is more to the whole Toyota / Lotus / Tesla saga than meets the eye… especially when considering Lotus' recent return to Formula 1, hot off the heels of Toyota's embarrassing failures in F1.
Why is F1 significant to any of this? Remember that Akio Toyoda is an active racing driver, who (it was rumored) pushed the Lexus supercar project along so he could have something to drive. Toyoda had to sit out this year's 24 hour race due to the PR
trouble nightmare surrounding Toyota's unintended acceleration lawsuits earlier this year, and you can bet that stung—they don't call it a “need for speed” for nothing.
Could it be that Toyota is positioning itself to return to F1, as an engine supplier to Lotus (the R&D money on an engine AND KERS system has already been spent, after all)? Could Akio Toyoda be lining himself up for a drive in the next Lotus Esprit GT racer? Could Toyota be making a play to take full control of both Tesla AND Lotus, in a bid for their tech to leap so far ahead of every other automaker that they'll never be able to catch up?
Yes, yes, and very likely… and this is still just the tip, I think, of an iceberg that might yet determine the future of hybrid cars, EVs, and Toyota motorsports.
SOURCES: Autoblog, wild speculation.