Williams and Lotus embroiled in multi million-pound legal row over electric hypercar

Williams Advanced Engineering says its contract with Lotus was terminated unlawfully but the latter says the project was blighted by delays

Lotus Evija
Williams is preparing to sue Lotus over a contract to build the £2m hypercar Evija Credit: CHARLIE MAGEE/AFP

Two of the biggest names in British motorsport are embroiled in a bitter legal row over the building of the world’s first all-electric hypercar.

Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE), spun out of the Formula One team that boasted Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and Ayrton Senna as drivers, is preparing to sue Lotus over a contract to build the £2m Evija - billed as an engineering masterpiece with a top speed of more than 200mph.

Williams claims it has not been paid by Lotus since April. A decision this week to terminate the contract “is wrongful and without any legal basis”, Williams added.

The firm is understood to have appointed City law firm Quinn Emanuel as it pursues a multimillion-pound claim against Lotus, a carmaker founded in the 1950s by engineer Colin Chapman. Lotus is now majority owned by Chinese firm Geely, the owner of Volvo and black cab maker the London Electric Vehicle Company.

The Lotus Evija

Lotus said it brought the Evija project in-house before lockdown after “delivery problems” from Williams.  The Norfolk carmaker joined forces with Williams two years ago shortly after Geely took its 51pc stake.  

The Evija is seen as a key part of the push to revitalise Lotus, long known for its focus on high-performance sports cars with pared-back, racing car-style interiors. Geely wants Lotus to become a “a leading global luxury brand” able to rival the likes of Porsche.

Sources said Lotus’s decision to terminate the Evija contract surprised bosses at Williams this week. 

It is understood that problems first reared their head in May, when Lotus rejected an invoice from Williams. 

However, Lotus said that Williams had already been stripped of the Evija project by this point. It announced a new production timetable last month, and plans to open a plant in Warwickshire.

Williams said it had enjoyed a collaborative relationship with Lotus before now, but added: “WAE is firmly of the view that the allegations of breach of the agreement made by Lotus are false and contrived.

"As a result of the termination, however, highly skilled UK jobs are now at risk, along with the launch of the world’s first fully electric British hypercar, the Lotus Evija.

“Following Lotus’ wrongful termination of its agreement with WAE, WAE has been left with no choice but to instigate legal action to pursue compensation for unpaid invoices, none of which have been paid since April 2020, and other losses caused by Lotus’ breach of the agreement."

A spokesman for Lotus said: “As the programme entered its latter stages pre the Covid lockdown, Lotus elected to bring the project in house due to delivery problems from Williams Advanced Engineering.  

“Lotus will complete and enhance the programme in house as referred to in previous statements about our new Advanced Technical Centre in Warwickshire and the revised Evija production timetable. The end result will be a better product as we introduce not only the most powerful production car in the world, but also the world's best electric car for the drivers.”

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