Lotus’s new owner “is not thinking about a sale” according to sources close to the Norfolk sports car maker.
The managing director of Proton’s new owner, DRB-HICOM, Dato’ Sri Haji Mohd Khamil Bin Jamil, made the comment last week during a visit to Lotus’s Hethel HQ, near Norwich, intended to reassure management and staff.
Dato’ Jamil said he could “never say never” about a sale, but insisted that selling was not DRB-HICOM’s priority. He said his management would “take time” to understand the Hethel business, but would support it financially in the meantime. Formulating a plan for Lotus could take months, he said, because the situation was complex and a careful decision was needed.
Malaysian-based car-maker Proton, formerly owned by interests close to the Malaysian government, acquired Lotus in 1996 and always insisted that Lotus was one of its key assets. But Proton was itself sold to automotive giant DRB-HICOM three months ago. The deal introduced uncertainties at Lotus, especially when a spokesman said DRB was “willing to talk” about selling Hethel. Matters were complicated by 60 days of financial stringency — required under Malaysian corporate law — which starved Lotus of cash at a critical stage of its ambitious expansion programme.
Car production has now resumed following the 60-day financial hiatus, and development continues on the existing models, Elise, Exige and Evora. Lotus expects to present several new derivatives of these at its celebrations at the Goodwood Festival at the end of June. The company is also continuing to develop its new Esprit supercar, due next year. But whether and when work will resume on the other new models proposed in MD Dany Bahar’s original five-year plan remain open questions.
While partly reassured by Dato’ Jamil’s statement, Lotus-watchers believe the company continues in a kind of limbo, damaging to business, which will only be truly resolved when the DRB-HICOM reaches its long-term decision.