Lotus Cars has secured enough investment from its new Malaysian owner to restore full car production
Steve Cropley Autocar
26 April 2012

Lotus Cars has secured enough investment from its new Malaysian owner, the automotive giant DRB-Hicom, to restore full car production at its Hethel assembly plant in the next few days, and continue build-up to the launch of the first of its new-wave models, the Esprit supercar due in showrooms before the end of 2013.

A four-model, five-year plan devised by CEO Dany Bahar has had to be amended because a 60-day financial “freeze”, a routine occurrence when Malaysian firms sell major assets, has interrupted the flow of agreed development funds and introduced considerable production delays.

The resumption means that from beginning of May Lotus should be making Elises, Exiges and Evoras at a combined rate of 44 cars a week, and will be continuing to to spend on the development of the Esprit, especially its own-design V8 engine and novel automated manual transmission.

Other new models proposed beyond Esprit remain in abeyance for the time being but Lotus expects to launch at least three improved versions of existing models in time for this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, late in June, where it is this year’s “chosen” marque. The company celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, as well as the 50th anniversary of the launch of the first Lotus Elan.

Bahar vehemently denies recent assertions made during a recent parliamentary debate by local MP, Richard Bacon, that the business consultancy KPMG has been tasked with finding a buyer for the company in China.

“It’s just not true,” he says. “There is no fire sale, no selling process and no bidding. If there were, lots of strange people would be here doing inspections and due diligence, but there is nobody. Besides, I have no authority to sell the company. That’s a job for the shareholders. I am just an employee.”

He also laughs off recent reports that his contract contains incentives to sell the company. “You can look at it any way you want,” he says. “I have a fairly normal CEO’s deal that means if our plan were to be successful at some time in the future, there could be a benefit. That is nothing out of the ordinary.”

Commenting on reports that DRB-Hicom had appointed a highly-placed Proton employee to Lotus’s top management, Bahar said the move was extremely welcome. “We have been joined by the CFO of the Proton Group, someone we have known for two and a half years, and who knows our company and situation very well. He has been nominated to form a co-operative link between DRB and us, and this is very helpful because we have not had this before.”

A Lotus Youngman company, recently registered in London with himself as one of two shareholders, had been intended to extend links between Hethel and the Chinese manufacturer Youngman that already sells an “Engineered by Lotus” saloon range in China. But it is unlikely now to go ahead, he says. “Our two companies started talks with the aim of doing new products under a different logo, but it is now very unlikely that we will finalize the deal.”

The Lotus CEO keen to scotch reports that Youngman is Lotus’s Chinese importer: that function is fulfilled, he says, by Lotus China Symphony, who have so far opened three dealerships this year in China, and have plans for another 13 before the year-end.

Bahar regrets the severity of his media examination, but can understand the reason for it. He admits that DRB-Hicom has still to decide whether it will operate Lotus as is, modify its ambitious management plans or move to sell it. He is frustrated by the situation, he says, but understands that the new owner needs to concentrate on its much larger purchase, Proton, in the early weeks.

“The past four months have been really tough for us,” he says. “We were working at a pace nobody had seen at Lotus for many years, so the shut-down, as I call it, was very hard for us. It is still not good, but it is where we are. My job is to convince our shareholders — and critics — that we can build a successful business here. But I’m feeling a lot happier now than I was a month ago.”

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Comments
29

26 April 2012

[quote Autocar]Esprits, Exiges and Evoras at[/quote] they obviously mean Elise, not Esprit

[quote Autocar]especially its own-design V8 engine [/quote]

Oh my goodness, let it not be true

[quote Autocar]and novel automated manual transmission[/quote] Is that what die-hard Lotus fans crave after?

26 April 2012

"The resumption means that from beginning of May Lotus should be making Esprits, Exiges and Evoras at a combined rate of 44 cars a week,"

Wow, they're building Esprits already? That was a quick development! ;-)

At least this story brings some clarity. The bold plan seems to have been cut back to just the Esprit, and investment continues. In other words it's being run and will be sold off as a going concern at a later date.

That doesn't mean that's a bad move - a new owner may have a better idea of what Lotus should be than Proton ever did!

26 April 2012

Good news and fingers crossed. Such an iconic brand doesn't need to be messed around so much.

26 April 2012

so nothing happened.

www.KOOOLcr.com

 

26 April 2012

[quote Autocar]novel automated manual transmission[/quote]

What's so novel about it? Automated manuals have been around since the Ferrari F355 of 1995, so either they're 20 years late to the party or are doing something new.

26 April 2012

[quote Symanski]

At least this story brings some clarity. The bold plan seems to have been cut back to just the Esprit, and investment continues. In other words it's being run and will be sold off as a going concern at a later date. [/quote]

Agreed. I don't want to always sound negative about Lotus, but it doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement from the new owners. The sale stroy is going to run for quite a while yet, I feel.

26 April 2012

[quote disco.stu]

[quote Autocar]novel automated manual transmission[/quote]

What's so novel about it? .

[/quote]

Ah. You misunderstood. What they mean is they're going to write a book about it. To sell in their shop. In Regent Street...what's going on with that?

26 April 2012

Good news is good news. And this is good news.

If anyone seriously wishes Lotus ill, what are you doing reading this web site?

Imagine working for Lotus and reading some of the snide comments that are made about its products, and by implication, the skills and abilities of the work force. It is just nasty and rude.

Anyone who enjoys cars in themselves, rather than as practical appliances or statements of social compliance, owes a very great deal to the spirit of Lotus.

26 April 2012

I've always secretly hankered after an Evora, having had a brief trip some time ago when the car revealed itself to genuinely have that legendary ride/handling balance at which motoring hacks had been marvelling - basically, it went round corners like the proverbial, ate up all the bumps yet you still felt in touch with the road. However, the recent shenanigans means I probably won't ever buy one.

26 April 2012

[quote disco.stu]Agreed. I don't want to always sound negative about Lotus, but it doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement from the new owners.[/quote]

Some people may confuse what we say as being negative rather than us wanting the absolute best for Lotus. I want to see Lotus bring out cars which are genuine world leaders in style, performance, and "want a poster of it on my wall" factor.

When I was a child I had pictures of Esprits on my wall. I didn't have any Ferraris, I had a Lotus.

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