Lotus boss Dany Bahar has been ordered to continue the five-year programme he devised two years ago to replace the entire Lotus model range, even though Malaysian parent company Proton is in the process of being acquired by a new owner, DRB Hicom.
Progress at Hethel will slow over the next two months, Bahar says, because Malaysian law entails a 60-day change-of-ownership process, during which time Lotus will not have access to previously agreed Proton funds. This will also result in some delays in the development of the new models, which could set back the launch date of the new Esprit by as much as six months, as well as creating shorter delays for the Exige S and Evora GTE.
“We have explained our plans to the new owner,” the Lotus CEO told Autocar in an exclusive interview, “and have been told to keep going as we are. The immediate problem is to manage the cash in the business carefully during the 60-day pause, but I am confident that this is a temporary technical issue.”
Proton’s new owners are reportedly “open” to talks about the sale of Lotus, but Bahar dismisses as speculation suggestions the company is close to being sold to one of a number of supposed suitors, including the Luxembourg-based private investment company Genii, which already owns the Lotus F1 team.
“To the best of my knowledge, no one is about to buy the company,” said Bahar. “You’d have to consider the market implications before deciding to sell. Right now we have crazy demand for the latest Exige — 383 orders already. The Evora GTE will be homologated by May, and we have 200 orders for that. Things are looking really promising.”
Lotus is now more than two years into its five-year plan, Bahar pointed out. “Our new gearbox is on the dyno and our new V8 supercar engine is running and progressing on schedule. We will have supercar prototypes to test in May. We’ve spent so much money already that it would be silly to write it off.”