Five minutes with…. Scott Walker, Head of Business, Hethel Retail Operations



What does your role involve?
It’s all to do with our cars and customers and how we connect the two positively, from the very first test drive to a collection. The role will become more varied as we grow the operation so, as an example, the first workstream was to create a Factory Collection process that was able to cater for everyone, both individuals and groups. We’ve capacity for 200 Emira customer collections a month with the process that’s now up and running.

What is the Factory Collection option on Emira?
It’s one of three ways in which a customer can take possession of their new Emira. Within the direct sales process we launched in the UK last year, we offer a direct-to-door ‘white glove’ delivery service, collection from the local agent in the traditional manner, or Factory Collection, which means the customer comes to Hethel to get their car.

Why should customers select Factory Collection when they complete the online check-out process?
For the experience alone – is there a better place to collect a new Lotus than the very site on which the car was designed, engineered and built? We are really thorough with the handover process, so we know that the customers are happy when they leave. The team is people-focused and passionate about the brand, and at Hethel we have plenty of assets at our disposal to make it a very special day.

What does Factory Collection consist of?
The experience of collecting a car from Hethel is just that – an experience. Each handover runs for 3.5 hours, operates from our newly opened Retail Centre and comprises a full factory visit seeing Emira production, from engine and front sub-frame preparation, chassis and framing, to the production line and Quality Control. There’s then a ‘moment of reveal’ of their car, followed by a deep dive into its controls, features and ownership observations. It’s my job to ensure the customer is absolutely comfortable with driving out of the factory gates, and to provide the best start in their ownership. Having seen how Emira is built, customers appreciate the elegance of our architecture and why we engineer the cars the way we do.

What else is included in the day?
Lunch is provided at The Pit Stop – our on-site colleague restaurant that’s run by the team of legendary Norfolk TV chef Delia Smith – and the customer can spend a voucher we’ve already sent them in our merchandise store. There’s also a really lovely mounted and framed image of their car that’s presented to every customer.

Are there any exclusives for Factory Collection customers?
Besides the whole experience, we’ve also developed an accessory line of Paint Protection Film (PPF) and premium ceramic options that are exclusive to Hethel collections. Research told us that many customers want their cars protected from the off, and by not offering this it was a blocker to them selecting Factory Collection. We did one recently and the customer was over the moon; his car looked truly absolutely fantastic, and with -2 deg temperatures and lots of grit and salt about, he had no fears about driving it back to the Midlands.

What’s the part you enjoy most?
The best part is the reveal – we insist that customers take the covers off their car themselves; they are emotionally invested and have waited a while, so it’s great for me to stand back and watch their faces as they literally unwrap their new car and see it for the first time.

How do group sessions work?
They operate a bit like an owners’ club first meeting, with all the customers congratulating each other on their colours and specifications.

For some customers Hethel must be a long way to travel?
Yes, and some customers make a proper trip out of it. The very first customer was from Scotland. For those who wish to stay over, we’ve specially arranged rates with four local hotels, and Norfolk’s a great place to be at any time of year.

What’s been the feedback from customers who have gone through the process already?
We’ve had really great feedback ourselves, as have the team at the Customer Care Centre who follow up each customer shortly after collection. Of course, many voice their delight and share their experience on forums and social media, which just helps spread the word.

Are future developments to the process planned?
There are…. but I can’t tell you about them at the moment!

How else can you visit Hethel if you’re not an Emira customer?
The Lotus Advanced Performance team offers a great range of experiences on the renowned 2.2-mile Hethel test track through the Lotus Driving Academy. There are also Factory Tours of the Chapman Production Centre, where the Emira is built, and Classic Team Lotus, which houses all the famous F1 race cars. They have a knowledgeable hosts and highly experienced instructors.