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Lotus’ upcoming crossover will be built and sold exclusively in China

Confirming a long-standing rumor, Lotus has announced that it is in the early stages of developing its first-ever crossover. The yet-unnamed soft-roader is highly controversial but it is expected to give the British automaker’s sales a much-needed boost and, more importantly, lure new buyers into showrooms.

Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales promises that the crossover will be a “real Lotus” and bills it as “the world’s first lightweight SUV.” Roughly the same size as a Porsche Macan, it will stand out thanks to a sporty silhouette and a design that will borrow styling cues from the company’s back-to-the-basics sports cars.

A handful of bits and pieces will be borrowed from parent company Proton in a bid to keep development costs in check, though Gales defends this decision by pointing out that “you can find Volkswagen components in a Lamborghini.” The engines will likely come from the Toyota parts bin.

Precise technical details are not available yet because the crossover is at the embryonic stage of development. However, Lotus promises that the model will be considerably lighter and faster than its main competitors thanks to the use of lightweight materials like forged alloy, composites and aluminum in its construction. All-wheel drive will be available but Gales warns the crossover will not be a true off-roader.

Related: Lotus sedan in the works? 

The crossover sounds promising on paper but there is a catch: It will be built in a brand new Lotus factory that will be located in south east China and it will exclusively be sold on the local market, at least early on in the production run. Lotus has not ruled out exporting the crossover to Europe and Japan a little later in the production run, but strict safety and emissions regulations will likely keep it out of the United States.  Even so, Lotus already predicts the crossover will become its best-selling model shortly after its introduction.

British magazine Autocar reports that Lotus’ first crossover is scheduled to hit the market in 2019, meaning it will likely be introduced at the 2018 edition of the Beijing Motor Show.