Lotus Engineering has announced details of its so-called versatile vehicle architecture, which is claimed to offer a fast-to-market, cost-effective approach to differentiated niche products by spreading the development, investment and bill of materials burden across a range of niche vehicle variants.

Vehicle makers seeking to gain competitive advantage through exciting niche vehicles either design a new platform or share one already available. Engineering a bespoke low-volume platform is an expensive, time-consuming solution, while sharing a mainstream steel chassis reduces time and costs, but results in compromises in performance and design.

Lotus claims its VVA has been developed to fill the gap in the investment-volume curve to exploit the benefits of producing at medium volumes but for niche markets with their inherent favourable returns.

The philosophy is based on the commonality and adaptability of key elements of the vehicle structure and platform systems across a 'family' of niche vehicle variants, with a combined annual production rate in the region of 50,000 units.

Structural components common to each family member are arranged in different configurations in each variant around ingenious adaptable corner nodes. In parallel to this structural versatility, platform systems such as suspension and steering components are designed for application across the range.

Lotus Engineering plans to deliver prototypes of its first niche variant to a client in mid-2004.

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