Say what you will about Lotus boss Dany Bahar – and let’s be honest, he’s not short of critics either here on the Autocar forums or out there in the automotive industry – but he’s certainly convincing.
I met him for the first time last week, and arrived with the preconceptions of many a sceptic. I left impressed with his candour, enthusiasm and energy for getting a job done.
He freely admits his plan for five high-cost new cars plus an engine, all to go on sale between 2013-2018, is risky – but says his policy was the best-case scenario out of the three options facing the company.
“In the past 15 years the company hadn’t been successful – losing money – so something needed to change,” he said. “There were three possibilities: sell, shut down or go on the attack.”
He admits that, if he had his time again, he wouldn’t have announced the five new cars at last year’s Paris motor show – “maybe three or four would have been enough” – but stresses that he was under pressure to outline his plans for “attack” in double quick time to the various stakeholders involved.
He gives accusations that he’s abandoned Lotus’s core ethos of building low-cost, lightweight cars short shrift. “”You cannot make money with small-volume, small-price cars,” he says. “We have seen that, and now we must try a different approach.”
He also agrees that if it all goes wrong, he’ll be left carrying a vast majority of the blame. Rather than comment directly, he shrugs his shoulders in a manner that suggests that sort of pressure is all part of the job. All he asks is that “people judge me based on facts”. Year one of his five-year plan met expectations, year two is on track… and more than that will become clear in time.
Finally, let’s lay to rest the assertion that Bahar isn’t a “car guy”. He’s certainly no engineer, but there’s no question that he loves motoring and motorsport – his office is littered with racing car models, trophies and hundreds of books on every subject from the Lotus biographies through to the history of Brands Hatch.
Of course, none of this means that his plans will be a success – but I’d be interested to hear a credible alternative to his current plans to make a success of Lotus.