Wilmington is adding to its reputation as a hub of luxury vehicle offerings, with the opening this weekend of a niche dealership here.
The grand opening of Lotus Cape Fear and BMW Motorcycles Cape Fear takes place Saturday at the dealership’s new facility at 5 Garris Road, next door to sister dealership Jaguar Land Rover Cape Fear. The same group also owns the Audi Cape Fear franchise.
Lotus, a storied British-made automobile, saw its models featured in the James Bond movies "For Your Eyes Only" and "The Spy Who Loved Me." The Cape Fear showroom will feature Lotus’ first all-electric SUV, Eletre, which was unveiled a year ago, as well as Lotus’ final all-gasoline vehicle, Emira.
The new showroom won’t be full of Emiras and Eletres at this weekend’s opening, however. General manager Shane Heffernan said there is a waiting list for the models. Although there is an Emira on site this weekend, Heffernan said “We are opening with no cars.”
A lucky few who reserved in advance will take the pricey sportscar for a test drive on Saturday while it is at the dealership. And there is a healthy amount of interest among potential buyers. Heffernan said the dealership already has 30 orders for the gas-powered Emira, and is starting to accept deposits for the Eletra as well.
The first edition of Emiras will go for about $105,000, although later models will be less expensive, according to Heffernan, who estimated the U.S. starting price for the electric Eletras at about $90,000.
Along with deep pockets, patience will be a requirement for local would-be Lotus owners. The initial shipment of Emiras was supposed to arrive last August; Heffernan said he now expects them sometime in the fourth quarter of this year. He expects the first shipment of Eletres to roll into the dealership in mid-2024.
Heffernan explained the reason behind the delays.
“What’s holding it up is the different emission laws in the U.S. compared to Europe, especially California’s standards,” he said. “Lotus is working on meeting those emissions requirements.”
Manufacturing wheels will be turning faster very soon, he added.
“Lotus was recently purchased by GELY, the holding company for the manufacturer of Volvo,” he said. “They are putting more than $100 million into Lotus’ existing factories as well as building a new factory. Lotus has been a niche brand; now it’s ramping up to be a serious luxury manufacturer.”
Motorcycle enthusiasts who attend Saturday’s opening will see a full spectrum of BMW Motorrads, as the motorcycle line is called.
“Every motorcycle BMW makes is available for a test drive all day Saturday,” Heffernan said. “Anyone 18 or older with a motorcycle endorsement and license is welcome to participate. There will be a professional rider here showing people the bikes.”
Wilmington is “definitely being put on the map where luxury vehicles are concerned,” Heffernan said, noting that until now, the closest Lotus dealer was in Winston-Salem.
“Wilmington is growing so fast and people like their toys,” he added. “We’re lucky to be a part of the community.”
The Lotus Cape Fear and BMW Motorcycles Cape Fear test drive event takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, followed by the dealership’s grand opening from 6 to 9 p.m., which features music and refreshments.