What’s Going to Happen with Group Lotus?

It has been a tumultuous 3 year span for Group Lotus that began with Dany Bahar’s placement as the head of Group Lotus. The Evora was launched and then a few months later came the Paris Auto Show where Bahar introduced the world to 5 concept cars from Lotus and stated that these new concepts were the face and future of the “new” Lotus. At the same time Bahar more than implied that the new launched Evora was not a car that fit into the new Lotus. Consumers are not stupid; they could read Bahar’s tea leaves and Evora sales slowed.

Dany Bahar with the Lotus Elite concept @ LA Auto Show 2010

I was not alone in being baffled by Bahar’s lack of support for the Evora. His own business plan relied upon strong sales of the Evora to pay the interest on the loans he had received from the banks to help fund the 5 car plan. Yet, it seemed that Bahar was dooming his plan by shooting the Evora in the head.

In the following year came “tie-ins” with Swizz Beatz, the Baldwin brothers and other celebrities. And the Lotus Motorsports group seemed to have a bottomless pit of monies to sponsor Renault F1, LeMans cars, ALMS cars, Indy cars, FIA Rallye teams and more. And there were huge parties before the Paris and Los Angeles shows with celebrity guests and private limos and more.

Of course there was the row between Lotus-Renault F1 and Tony Fernandes Team Lotus F1 team. But, I’ll not go into that mess in this short article. Let’s move on, it has nearly been a year since Proton was purchased by DRB-HiCom and the Bahar party came to a violent halt!

Bahar Sacked and the Rumors Began
It did not take the folks at DRB-Hicom to realize they needed to get Bahar out, but they needed grounds which they found during an audit of Lotus. With Bahar sacked, DRB-HiCom stuck their man to run Group Lotus, a operations guy that could keep the lights on without breaking the bank.

Any real news from Hethel was scarce, first it was “we are still doing due diligence”, next “we are working on a plan” and “We’ve been there twice and we like what we see”. But there was no real news about real plans to keep or divest Lotus from Proton. This gave way for rumors that DRB-Hicom was going to sell to VW, to GM, to Honda and even Caterham.

A year has nearly passed and DRB-Hicom has Lotus on life support giving the Group just enough monies to keep the lights on and fill a few orders. Witness the recent LA Auto Show, stark contrast to 2010 when Bahar debuted his 5 concept cars. This year Lotus Cars USA had absolutely no budget for the show; a show where 25-30% of the global production of sports are sold. The deafening silence from DRB-Hicom about Lotus and the trickle of monies to support the Group are telling.

What is going on? An Opinion…
I don’t have any special information, but I think we can piece together what is going on.

First I believe the entire Proton – DRB-Hicom deal was politically motivated. The sale of Proton and hence Lotus to DRB-Hicom was done because of the political pressures on the current Malaysian government to shed private interest and start showing some financial stability. It was the end of the 4th year of the current administration’s term and they needed to start righting the ship if they had any hopes of retaining power in the coming election cycle.

But, why sell to DRB-Hicom? Afterall Hicom isn’t exactly the most obvious buyer, they are not in the business of selling and marketing cars. Again politics, Hicom is a contract company that has won and profited from large expensive government projects. Timing was critical for the Malaysian government; they needed sell Proton quickly, so they called in some Hicom chips.

The sale was made at the beginning of the 5th year of the current term. The term for the Malaysian Parliament is 5 years. The previous election was held on March 8, 2008, so the current administration must hold an election before the end of the 5th year in office. There is no “set” schedule of when elections take place, only that they have to happen before the end of the 5th year. So, it is common practice for the administration to do house cleaning and give out “gifts” leading up to when they announce the elections. Elections can be announced with as little as 2 weeks’ notice.

Why is Hicom just keeping Lotus in limbo? Why no public statement on what’s next for Lotus? I believe that a decision has been made by Hicom to dispose Lotus and do a massive restructuring of Proton. But that would entail the loss of jobs and exposing how much tax monies were lost by Proton. Not exactly what the current administration wants to see happen just before re- election.

Thus, any news about the future of Lotus seems to hinge upon the Malaysian elections. Those elections have not been announced, but the end of 5 year term is March 7, 2013 (the last election was on March 8, 2008). If current administration loses, the Hicom will be free to dispose of Lotus and the newly elected leadership can claim they are fixing the sins of the old leadership. If the current administration wins then again Hicom can dump Lotus and the administration can continue knowing that they are in office for 5 more years and the electorate will have long forgotten about Hicom, Proton & Lotus by the next elections.

Bottom-line, I don’t think we will hear anything from Hicom about the future of Lotus for a few more months. Watch for signs of “gifts” (like tax breaks and grants from the administration) as a signal that the election date will be announced and set.

What will DRB-Hicom do, sell or invest?
I believe the lack of information from Hicom says it all. There is no political or business downside to Hicom publically stating they like Lotus and are keeping and investing in Lotus. The lack of news is ever telling, Hicom has made a decision to divest Lotus but are holding off public announcements for the political reasons I previously stated. That Hicom is keeping Lotus on life- support is an indication that they are just waiting until it is politically prudent to make such an announcement.

You could take the recent statements at face value and argue that it takes time to work things out with the banks and make right plans. Or, that the plans are set, but waiting for the elections to happen so the loans can be forgiven without huge political fallout. I believe such a scenario is a long shot.

So sell as a whole or break up Group Lotus? I believe the VW rumors were half true. VW was interested but only in Lotus Engineering. But, Hicom understands that selling Lotus Engineering would mean Lotus Cars would be deeply devalued and Hicom would be unable to sell Lotus Cars as a standalone entity. Thus the VW deal never got anywhere. Hicom would then prefer to sell Group Lotus in whole and not break it up, but to what buyer?

My bet is that a potential buyer will not be a large automotive maker like Honda, Toyota or GM. Instead the best scenario is a private buyer or smaller entity that is familiar with selling technology and knows how to be profitable in a niche markets. The biggest hurdle for this to happen is getting the banks to restructure the loans. Who might this private or smaller entity be? I don’t know, there have not been any rumors or news that puts anyone in talks with HiCom. However, I think this would be the best outcome for Group Lotus, even though there would not be the financial security of having a large auto maker’s ownership.

In any case I think it’s unlikely we hear anything solid until at least March or April after the Malaysian elections.

Kiyoshi Hamai

Group Lotus Secures British Government Backing

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has formally confirmed that Group Lotus’ bid for funds from the second round of the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) has been successful.

One of the main purposes of the Regional Growth Fund is to support growth within the UK manufacturing sector. Lotus recognised that the Government was seeking applications which would enable private sector organisations to invest in projects that would create jobs and secure long-term growth. Lotus’ growth plans are completely aligned with the Fund’s objectives and will go someway towards rebalancing employment between the public and private sector in the South Norfolk region.

The grant will be put to good use supporting the industrial research element of the production of Lotus’ future product range. This significant development will go towards ensuring that the manufacturing of future Lotus products remains in the UK for the foreseeable future and in the process create a considerable number of new jobs over the next five to six years.

Commenting on the news, Group Lotus Chief Executive Officer, Dany Bahar said: “This is great news for all those concerned about Group Lotus moving production overseas, to say that we’re pleased with the result would be an understatement. We are an authentic British automotive manufacturer with an incredible heritage and an exciting future ahead, this funding will play a role in assisting with the realisation of our business plan to produce a new range of sports cars with best in class performance and emissions.

“We would like to thank everyone for their support during the bid process. The local authorities, MPs and the local enterprise partnership have all played a role in helping us secure this funding – we’re very grateful, it’s nice to know people feel strongly enough to act on our behalf.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “We need to be doing all we can to enable businesses and organisations to create much needed jobs and inject private investment into the economy.

“We have announced today that a further 162 projects will benefit from the fund, and expect to deliver a huge number of jobs across their businesses and in the supply chain.

“This is a very significant boost to local communities, and the Regional Growth Fund will help businesses like Lotus to drive local growth.”

More details on the Regional Growth Fund:

The Regional Growth Fund is a discretionary £1.4bn Fund that will operate for 3 years between 2011 and 2014 to stimulate enterprise by providing support for projects and programmes with significant potential for creating long term private sector led economic growth and employment. In particular it will help those areas and communities that are currently dependent on the public sector make the transition to sustainable private sector-led growth and prosperity.

Lotus Evora featured on Desperate Housewives

Lotus PR has had a great coup with the Lotus Evora being featured in a long segment on the hit AB show Desperate Housewives.

The car is shown and mentioned by name multiple times along with shots of the main characters getting taken in by the driving experience. By working a mention of the price into the show, Lotus has manged to make it simulateousely aspirational and affordable – kudos to Dany and the team.

Group Lotus + Renault + Genii = Lotus Renault GP

Group Lotus plc and Genii Capital are pleased to announce a partnership which will see the Renault F1 Team renamed as ‘Lotus Renault GP’ from the start of the 2011 racing season onwards. The association heralds the return of a highly successful Formula 1™ association between Lotus and Renault from the 1980s. Lotus’ racing pedigree and heritage coupled with Renault’s technology in Formula 1™ will set the united team on a path to future success.


Group Lotus plc will acquire a major equity stake in the team from Genii Capital. The transaction represents a partnership between Group Lotus and Genii Capital and signifies the beginning of a more comprehensive strategic alliance between the two organisations.

The partnership between Lotus and Genii brings the ability to quickly incorporate new technologies from F1™ cars into Lotus road cars including hybrid technology, Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS), aero advancements and lightweight materials. Genii, an investment holding company with a portfolio of automotive technologies, bring non-F1™ technologies such as lightweight braking systems, variable compression engine technology and on board software systems to the partnership.

Lotus Renault GP Logo

Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said: “I can think of no better platform for automotive brand communications than motorsport and F1™. We’re well aware that there has been a lot of controversy around the usage of our brand in F1™ and I’m delighted to be able to formally clarify our position: We are Lotus, and we are back.”

Dato’ Sri Mohd Nadzmi Mohd Salleh, Chairman of Proton, Lotus majority shareholder, said: “We know that Group Lotus has much to offer Formula 1™ and vice versa. After careful consideration, we believe this arrangement will be fruitful, both from a commercial and marketing point of view.”

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Proton advisor and former Prime Minister of Malaysia, said: “This is an exciting development which delivers strategic benefits to both Group Lotus and Proton. I fully support the partnership.”

Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of Renault, commented: “This multi-partner alliance will bring a new dynamic to the team and enable it to compete with the sport’s best from next season.”

In addition to this, Genii is also offering Proton the ability to leverage on its existing business relationships in Russia and other parts of the world, as a means to expand Proton’s global reach. Through Genii, Proton can also potentially access advanced automotive technologies by virtue of Genii’s association with Mangrove, a venture capital group.

Gerard Lopez, founding partner of Genii Capital, said: “For Group Lotus, access to Formula 1™ opens up new marketing opportunities and a major platform for business exchanges and development. In this regard, Genii Capital possesses shareholdings in, and direct access to, cutting edge companies in the automotive industry. Our tie-up with Group Lotus and Proton, which will enable its future road car ranges to take advantage of significant new technologies, is a natural step.”

Lotus Management Additions

Lotus add to expertise with two further appointments: industry leader Karl-Heinz Kalbfell and former Ferrari General Manager (EMEA), Guillaume Chabin.

With an unrivaled pedigree in the automotive industry, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell makes a welcome addition to the Group Lotus management team. Based at the Lotus headquarters in Hethel, Kalbfell, formerly of the BMW Group, will provide operational support and advise Group Lotus Chief Executive Officer Dany Bahar on the most efficient delivery of the business plan.

In addition to Kalbfell, Lotus has appointed Guillaume Chabin as Director of Sales. Chabin held senior positions at Ferrari and prior to this he was involved in the re-launch of Bentley.

Commenting on the appointments, Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said: “We are very pleased to have both Karl-Heinz and Guillaume on board. One of the keys to the success of any business is having exceptionally talented people working together effectively, and Karl-Heinz has incredible experience from working in extremely senior positions throughout the automotive industry to bring to the table – he has proven time and time again to have the qualities necessary to succeed in a difficult and fickle industry. His main role initially will be to bring together all our existing efforts across the departments and ensure that we are working effectively as a united force. It’s not enough to have a great business plan on paper, we need to deliver, Karl-Heinz will play a crucial role in making this happen.”

“Having worked with Guillaume previously, I’m fully aware of his capabilities – his business skills and understanding of the vision we have for Lotus complement our existing management line-up perfectly.”

Karl-Heinz Kalbfell said: “I’ve been aware of Lotus over the years and like many in the industry, I have watched with growing interest as Lotus has developed under Dany Bahar and his team. It’s not often that you get the opportunity to work with such an iconic automotive brand at such an exciting stage of its development and I really feel that now is the perfect time for me to contribute towards the future of Lotus. I have many years and some very demanding positions under my belt which allow me a lot of experience to draw upon. I’m ready for all the challenges that Lotus will bring.”

Commenting on his new role, Guillaume Chabin, Director of Sales for Lotus Cars, said: “Joining Lotus was an easy decision for me to make – having previously been involved in the re-birth of an iconic British brand when I was working at Bentley, I know the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead – this is a crucial time for Lotus and I’m very happy to be on board.”

Lotus Management on the Future of Lotus (GGLC Exclusive Interviews)

GGLC attended the North America launch of the new Lotus range at the LA Auto Show and got a chance to speak to senior management about their plans for Lotus and the challenges in launching 5 new cars in a short span of time. Short descriptions of the interviews and their major points are below but we recommend you watch the actual videos to get a sense about the future direction of Lotus

First up we spoke to Dany Bahar, the CEO of Group Lotus about his vision for the future of the company and why they were launching so many cars in such a short timeframe. Major points that he confirmed were:

  • Not all cars will be going to aluminium skins, the Elise will remain a composite body
  • Motorsports activities will include Evora GT4, Evora GT2, IndyCar (bespoke engine and aero)
  • Simultaneous worldwide launch with an intended volume of 6-7000 cars per year

Next up was Donato Coco, Head of Lotus Design and the man behind the 5 cars on display. He spoke to us about the challenges in designing iconic cars like the Esprit as well as the goals for the design language for the Lotus range. Our favorite quite here was that the design for the new front ends has been inspired by the original Lotus Seven and if you look at the cars (especially the Elise) it does actually come through.

Finally we spoke to Wolf Zimmermann, CTO of Lotus about the challenges in rapidly developing 5 new cars. This was a great interview with reasons behind various decisions and we recommend you watch the whole video below. Significant points include:

  • Aluminium bodies are required because composite cannot provide the required quality and shapes for the new designs
  • Engines are not yet confirmed but will be decided in the next few months
  • VVA architecture and manufacturing will have to be upgraded to meet targets
  • Lotus Engineering is already involved in some of the design processes


met•a•mor•pho•sis n. pl. met•a•mor•pho•ses

1. A transformation, as by magic or sorcery.
2. A marked change in appearance, character, condition, or function.
3. Biology A change in the form and often habits of an animal during normal development after the embryonic stage


To celebrate the new changes at Lotus, the company has joined forces with award winning French artist Gerard Rancinan for a new publicity stunt called the Lotus Metamorphosis. The Lotus Metamorphosis represents a series of seven images created by Gerard Rancinan, together with a book French writer, Caroline Gaudriault. The Lotus Metamorphosis project is meant to capture the essence of the brand’s recent evolution.

With a perfect example of art in motion, Lotus are set to unveil Metamorphosis – a unique collaboration between Lotus and the award winning French artist Gérard Rancinan – on Friday (12th November) at an exclusive VIP event in Los Angeles. Metamorphosis is a selection of seven stunning images alongside a book created by French writer, Caroline Gaudriault. Both elements aim to capture the essence of Lotus’ evolution.

Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said: “Lotus is currently going through a complete metamorphosis and at times it can be a real challenge to communicate the transition of a brand, especially one as iconic as Lotus. The passion people have for our brand can be both a blessing and a curse, everyone has a strong opinion – for this reason, we are always looking for creative ways to reach out to the world. When the idea was presented to me, I couldn’t resist. Gérard is an exceptional artist, I have followed his work closely over the years and I felt instinctively that he would be the perfect person to demonstrate our vision and encapsulate the spirit of our brand with his images. People are in for a real treat when they see all seven.”

Gérard Rancinan creator of Metamorphosis said: “I can see a clear artistic link between the work of Lotus and my photographs in terms of commitment, the relevance of the subject matter, the audacity of the creator, the beauty of the gesture and the perfection of the object. We are engaged in a dialogue which takes place on the same terrain: the world of art.”

Caroline Gaudriault author of the Metamorphosis book said: “Authors always look for a good story to use as a kind of canvas; their characters take on the form of living matter; they introduce twists and turns in their narratives in an attempt to surprise their readers. By immersing myself in the Lotus saga, I was able to find all the material I needed to create a feuilleton drawn from real life.”

Lotus Director of Design Donato Coco said: “From a design perspective Lotus is in full metamorphosis and it’s a natural progression for any forward thinking brand, in my view we are retaining the core DNA through everything we’re doing – the way I see it, Lotus is more Lotus now than ever before. We obsessively seek innovation, we are unique and we are bold, that is what Lotus is about. With the Metamorphosis collaboration we are simply spreading our wings. The project means a great deal to me personally, I have known Gérard for many years and we inspire each other through our work – he completely understands our vision for the future of Lotus whilst still paying great respect to our past.”

[press release from Lotus]

2015 Lotus Eterne – The Statement of Intent

Enter the Eterne, the four door super saloon from Lotus. If the Elite is elegance incarnate then the Eterne is elegance redefined.

2015 Lotus Eterne

The Eterne is a true four door, four seater sports GT. It’s the ultimate expression of refined style, sophistication and grace. But wait. An elegant, graceful sports car? Surely not.
A sports car by definition can’t be graceful. Powerful, exciting, aggressive yes, but not graceful. Yet here it is, the ultimate paradox – the Eterne. Power and grace, performance and elegance, beauty and strength all in one stunning package.

2015 Lotus Eterne

With a 5.0 litre pressure charged V8 engine delivering up to 620 PS the Eterne is aiming for best in class performance and efficiency.

In keeping with the rest of the new line-up, the Eterne will benefit from hybrid technology.
Dany Bahar, Chief Executive Officer of Group Lotus, said: “The Eterne is sensational to look and as with the rest of the range it also over delivers in all other aspects as well. Similar to the Elite, it’s a car of perfect contradictions, it’s compact yet spacious, high performing yet low emitting, relative lightweight yet still reassuringly solid.”

“We truly believe that there is a market for the Eterne, there is nothing else like it out there both in terms of design, capacity and performance. The biggest difference between the Eterne and it’s class competitors is that it’s not an evolution of an existing two-door model, it’s a deliberate and considered stand-alone creation. It’s the ultimate four door sports car.”

2015 Lotus Eterne

Sometimes there are no rules to be broken, so it is time to define them instead.

2015 Lotus Eterne

Eterne Specification

Layout 4 seater, front-mid-engined, rear wheel drive, all wheel drive is optional
Engine Petrol, hybrid optional
Hybrid Technology Hybrid gearbox with integrated electric motors and KERS
Cylinder V8
Capacity 5.0 litre
Power/Torque 620 PS / 720 Nm
Rev limit 8,500 rpm
0-100 km/h 4.0 seconds
Top speed 315 km/h
CO2 approx (CO2/km) 220 g/km**
Weight 1,800 kg
Seats 4
Transmission Full Hybrid transmission
Drive RWD, AWD optional
Start of production Early 2015
Enters the market Spring 2015
Price indication Circa £120,000
**Using optional hybrid

2015 Lotus Eterne

2015 Lotus Elise – The Grown Up

Oh yes, here it is! There’s still room for the Elise at Lotus but what a difference a decade or two makes. The Elise due for release in 2015 is a sexy, agile beast of a car. Finally the Elise comes of age.

2015 Lotus Elise

Aesthetically it’s definitely pleasing to the eye, it’s bold directional body gives you subtle hints of the Elise of old so it still seems a touch familiar but at the same time, it couldn’t be more different.

2014 Lotus Elise

Perhaps a small example of how the car has changed would help. Aside from strong graphic styling, the practicality of the car has had a major overhaul too with sizeable improvements made to the ingress and egress – in simple terms, no more acrobatics but still all the fun you expect from the Elise.

2015 Lotus Elise

Dany Bahar, Chief Executive Officer of Group Lotus, said: “We worked very hard on getting the Elise 2015 exactly right, it’s our entry level car so it needs to give a proper introduction to the Lotus driving experience.”

“The Elise you can buy now is still a fantastic car, make no mistake, Lotus remain very proud of it, but this is a natural progression for us moving forward. The Elise 2015 will also be class-leading in terms of performance and efficiency but it will do more than that it will take the Elise model to the forefront of its class across the board.”

“The design of the Elise 2015 is perfect for the target market, it’s young, strong, confident, verging on ruthless, it mirrors the engineering and technology. It’s the next generation Elise for a new generation of Lotus drivers.”

2015 Lotus Elise

Fear not though, despite the dramatic upgrades the Elise 2015 has lost none of the cheeky charm that made the two-seater sports car famous, it still retains performance through lightweight and handles like a dream – albeit a quite aggressive and tension filled dream. With a 2.0 litre inline 4 pressure charged engine delivering up to 320 PS, the Elise 2015 should reach 0-100kph in under 4.5 seconds.

The Elise 2015, proving great things come to those who wait.

2015 Lotus Elise

Elise Specification

Layout 2 seater, mid-engined, rear wheel drive
Engine Petrol with start/stop option
Hybrid technology Mild hybrid, i.e. start/stop technology
Cylinder 4
Capacity 2.0 litre
Power/Torque 320 PS / 330 Nm
Rev limit 7,800 rpm
0-100 km/h 4.3 seconds
Top speed 270 km/h
CO2 approx (CO2/km) 150 g/km**
Weight 1,095 kg
Seats 2
Transmission 6 Speed Manual, DCT optional
Drive RWD
Start of production Early 2015
Enters the market Spring 2015
Price indication Circa £35,000
** With new technology

2015 Lotus Elise