I’m not quite sure how the classic Lotus business is supposed to survive the retirement of super-specialist Paul Matty after 46 years of unswerving dedication to the marque. Far from being a mere businessman, Matty has often been Lotus’s most effective ambassador, keeping the flame burning while successive Hethel management teams were busy mishandling things (a phase now thankfully ended).
Over the years, Matty has built a vital global spares manufacturing network that sustains rivals and clients alike. Typically, he has laid watertight plans for it to thrive in the years ahead: Clive Chapman’s Classic Team Lotus has bought the entire business and will base it in a new emporium at the Hethel home of Lotus’s greatest grand prix cars. Matty regards this as his biggest success in five decades, and he deserves it.
Amid the routine criticism of car culture that we all hear in the wider media, it’s easy to forget how handy cars have become for promoting other people’s businesses. The latest example is a plan to use London’s exclusive tailoring hub as a concours venue for “30 world-class cars” on 15-16 June. The mission, say the promoters, is to explore the relationship between luxury car makers and Savile Row tailors, but the main hope must surely be to attract visitors who will take the opportunity to expand their wardrobes.
The appointment of venerable ex-Ferrari boss Amedeo Felisa to the top spot at Aston Martin, with master engineer Roberto Fedeli as his wingman, could hardly be a greater change of pace from the short-lived, toes-along-the-line regime of Tobias Moers, the ex-Mercedes-AMG man credited by the FT with “presiding over a collapse in morale”. I met Felisa a few times in his Maranello days and was always impressed by his inclusive, mild-mannered approach and how effortlessly he won respect. That will play brilliantly at Gaydon.
The arrival of so many Italians in the UK’s specialist car industry (there’s now an Italian CEO at Morgan) reminds me of times when Brits colonised parts of Italy’s car industry – and helps to quell any doubts I might have about the new arrivals’ awareness of ‘Britishness’. In particular, I remember ex-Lotus boss Mike Kimberley and his gang taking over Lamborghini for a bit in the 1990s and thinking they were the men for the job.