Dany Bahar speaks to Autocar about how the firm will get its six new cars into production
8 October 2010

Lotus stunned the world last week with the launch of six new models at the Paris motor show that will take the Norfolk firm right into the heart of Aston Martin, Porsche and Ferrari territory. Many commentators have expressed extreme scepticism over the plans, so Steve Cropley went to meet Lotus's new CEO Dany Bahar for the inside story on how the firm will carry out its radical plan.

“I always had a weakness for this brand,” says Hethel’s rule-changing CEO of the past 12 months, Dany Bahar. “Even while I was working at Ferrari, I knew Lotus was special. But to me, the products weren’t doing justice to the great name and heritage.”

Bahar, who sounds like a soft-voiced Michael Schumacher when he speaks, comes across as a far more emollient character than the person portrayed on the rumour-mill for the 12 months he has so far spent in the main man’s seat at Lotus, avoiding interviews while he put his radical changes into action.

See pics of all six new Lotuses revealed at the Paris show

He settles comfortably in an armchair as we talk, resting one leg comfortably on the other and displaying the sharpest trouser creases I’ve ever seen.

“We want our new cars to be as big as the brand itself,” he explains. “The previous management tried hard to do that with the Evora, but they had to leave everything else the same. Our new plan means we have the opportunity to change everything — to do things from a better position — and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Bahar readily acknowledges outsiders’ worries about his plan — raising the investment, finding the buyers, delivering the quality — and deals calmly with them, one by one. “Our investment is confirmed,” he insists. “Our shareholders have lost a lot of money at Lotus over the past 14 years, and they wanted to stop that. There were two options: sell the company or run it to its potential. They made the second choice.”

Read the full story on all six new Lotuses

But just how dependable is the solvency of Lotus’s owner, Proton, given its well-known past losses and market difficulties? Bahar points to its strong links with the Petronas oil company and with the Malaysian government.

“They’re strong,” he says. “They have their own aggressive plan to lift production to a million cars over the next five to seven years, from around 350,000. Besides that, they’re fun to work with. They have 1000 engineers of their own, and Lotus is already making use of those as capacity allows to work on third-party engineering projects. It’s a great partnership.”

Bahar insists that although his name is on the recovery plan, it wasn’t simply something he dreamed up. “I asked people,” he says. “I'm not a car guy. We did lots of research and I consulted people I trust, some of whom liked the idea so much they now work in the business. That part feels good; knowing there are people who believe we can do this thing just as passionately as I do.”

Downsides? Bahar is disappointed by the reaction of the UK’s coalition government to Lotus’s requests for loans to finance its plant development. “We were asking for loans,” he says, “not grants. We could have 1200 new manufacturing jobs here under the new plans. They complimented us on our presentation, and the whole thing looked a no-brainer. But we learned it wasn’t a no-brainer…”

Now, Bahar says, they’ll make more use of outside suppliers. “We’ll do what we have to do here, but we’ll outsource things that aren’t our speciality — just like every other modern manufacturer does. That, and clever design, will help a lot with the quality thing. We won’t try to be experts at leather work. We’ll find people who can deliver it.

Read more on Lotus's motorsport plans

Bahar, a study in coolness, becomes almost excited when the talk turns to motorsport. “Lotus’s DNA is based on racing,” he says. “No other company has ever had such a wide spread of success: F1, other open-wheelers, Le Mans, sports cars, GTs. Why would we discard such treasure, when it’s where the brand’s authenticity comes from?

“Besides,” says Bahar, “racing has a big impact on the road cars. After they have been tested by the best drivers, you feel safe to take them to the maximum.”

See all the latest Lotus reviews, news and video

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Comments
20

7 October 2010

[quote Autocar]“I'm not a car guy. We did lots of research and I consulted people I trust, some of whom liked the idea so much they now work in the business. [/quote]

Oh sh*t...

 

Please insert paragraps where needed.

7 October 2010

Bahar's Legacy is going to be a very negative one. If he fails... (well he has failed!). If he succeedes with his plans, he would have turned a carmaker that is forward looking (lightweight, great performance with low ecological footprint) into a backwards looking one (overwight, overpowered, gas-guzzler).

7 October 2010

The funniest thing I have read since Lehman Borthers' AAA credit rating.

"There were two options: sell the company or run it to its potential. They made the second choice.”

And the third option: Produce a load of unmitigated BS, try to get govenment money for the executives' bloated retirement fund (a la Rover) and disappear to a villa in France.

"Bahar is disappointed by the reaction of the UK’s coalition government to Lotus’s requests for loans to finance its plant development. “We were asking for loans,” he says, “not grants. We could have 1200 new manufacturing jobs here under the new plans. "

...the band was playing Dixie: double-four time...

7 October 2010

We're a clever engineering car company with the investment to produce only one or two new models a decade- ha! Fooled ya!

Underwhelmed, or what?

7 October 2010

What a cynical lot we are .

I hope he is successful . However the ability to iron his trousers does not make him a successful CEO . Lets face it he would have had someone else iron his trousers for him . He looks and sounds like a "seagull " to me .

Flies in makes a lot of noise shits over everybody and leaves a foul mess behind as he quickly flies out again . Talk about running before you can walk .

7 October 2010

One word: DeLorean.

7 October 2010

[quote RobotBoogie]One word: DeLorean.[/quote]

Or another - ROVER.

To live is to drive

7 October 2010

Casual talk of 'the quality thing' doesn't sound like someone totally engaged either, given that quality has always been this particular company's real Achillles' heel as well as one of the most complex and most expensive aspects of any car's design and build.

7 October 2010

Lotus has been making schizophrenic cars for decades. Absolutely diabolical interior and build quality vs. an unprecedented driving experience for the price. It's the biggest problem the company faces. You have to have a bit of money to own one. We're not suggesting rich but enough disposable income to afford the luxury of a vehicle that on the whole is quite impractical. I tried living with an Elise MkII, I lasted a week. Lotus is losing out to a demographic who would buy one of it's cars, if it only they had the luxury and detail in craftsmanship. I believe Proton is gearing Lotus up for auction and with 6 all new models in the pipeline that have the befitting interior for a customer who doesn't accept the 'Halfords' look. Proton cannot afford to keep pushing money into Lotus and Lotus can't keep producing vehicles that don't meet the expectations of their customers. Lotus are left with one option and that is the 'All or nothing' method. If it fails then the company was going to be chopped anyway. This way, the new products might get a rich Arab interested with the added bonus that it might stop the company from going under.

7 October 2010

The only reason to announce them all in one go and try to grab the F1 entry is to build company value so they can sell it asap to prop up Proton. (To Hyundai perhaps). This all sounds very much like the Phoenix fours plan for Rover....

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