News that former Lotus chief Dany Bahar and Lotus have settled their competing claims out of court adds fuel to my abiding, though unsubstantiated, impression that Bahar, widely criticised (especially in hindsight) for his too-ambitious plans for Lotus, was never a bad man.
I interviewed Bahar on behalf of Autocar at least three times, and it always seemed to me he fairly articulated Lotus’s key problem: that there simply weren’t enough Lotus Elise-Lotus Exige buyers in the world to sustain the company.
He also alighted on what seemed a plausible course of action for Lotus, to propose more models as a way of eventually selling a lot more cars, perhaps as many as 5000 a year. He also initiated an approach to the government for development funds, an idea that eventually bore fruit to the tune of £10 million.
One can criticise Bahar’s over-grand 2010 expansion scheme for Lotus, especially now, nearly four years later. It’s pretty clear that if you propose new models in every sports car segment at once, buyers won’t be very interested in the outmoded production editions you’re still making. You’ll probably go broke while you struggle to make the new cars – or find a big cash bung to help you stay alive.
Ironically, Lotus’s central problem – that there aren’t enough buyers for its existing models in the world – is as thorny and threatening as ever. But at least they now have, in new CEO Jean-Marc Gales, a leader with serious car industry know-how, which he can employ to chart a course out of the mire.
But even for an expert it’s no easy task. I’d give plenty to know what Gales was told by Lotus when briefed for the job, and what he makes of it now he’s seen the task up close.