A few weeks ago, it was rumored that the new generation Lotus Esprit had been axed. Many were upset upon hearing this, but that sadness may be short-lived. During an interview with British magazine AutoExpress, chief operating officer of DRB-HICOM, Aslam Farikullah confirmed that Lotus’ future is safe and that we will indeed see a new Esprit on the roads.
The problem is that the Esprit will be the only model to be produced, while the other four models previewed at the 2010 Paris Auto Show have been axed. He didn’t confirm when the Esprit will be launched because the company is now focusing on getting the quality right on the current Elise, Exige, and Evora models.
"We have to be realistic and get the basic fundamentals of the business right. Then we will look at the next products. We are excited about the future and plan to grow the business."
He also confirmed that all Lotus models will still be produced in the UK, despite the company’s new Malaysian owner.
Lotus may be struggling, but it certainly hasn’t given up on producing high-level sports cars in an attempt to regain the edge it once held in that realm. With much of the dead weight cut from the company, Lotus is ready to move forward and we certainly hope to see big things from it, whether it be under the control of DRB-Hicom and Proton or some other company altogether.
The last new models to successfully reach production phase under the Bahar reign were the Evora and Evora S, which debuted for the 2010 model year. Last year, the models were expanded to include an all-new automatic transmission that could be shifted from auto to manual almost instantaneously. For the 2013 model year, Lotus is expanding the lineup again by including this transmission as an option on the Evora S.
Now that it is four years into its production life, is the Evora S still up to the task of taking on some of the best sports cars the world has to offer?
Click past the jump to read all about the 2013 Evora S and find out if it is on the decline or positioned to spearhead a revival of the Lotus brand. Full story
We all know that Lotus has a lot of issues, but there has never been any confirmation of exactly how much trouble Lotus is really in. After DRB-Hicom requested a delay in tax payments to the Inland Revenue, people started looking a little closer.
According to reports, Lotus has about £30 million (roughly $48 million at the current exchange rates) in overdue debts to various suppliers. £23 million (roughly $36.8 million) of this debt is 90 days overdue and £7 million (roughly $11.2 million) of it is between 30 and 90 days overdue. Here comes the oddest of claims by DRB-Hicom; a source close to the company says that the blame for the overdue payments is related to prior management ::cough::Dany Bahar::cough::.
Okay, Bahar has been gone since late May and that means that DRB-Hicom has had full control of Lotus, and its bills, for over five months now. We will gladly give Bahar a lion’s share of the credit for taking one of the greatest sports car companies and flushing it down the toilet, however, we cannot put the blame on him for bills that are now three months overdue.
This issue falls directly on the plate of DRB-Hicom and the CEO it appointed to run Lotus, not Bahar and not any other previous management. Sure, previous management may have spent money that it didn’t have carelessly, but you have had five months to figure out how to pay the bills, so deal with it.
DRB-Hicom may start rethinking the £1 offer it received several months ago. That’s a small sum of money to hand someone a debt-burdened and troubled company… We’ll keep an eye out for more on this situation.
Lotus hasn’t exactly had the best run in the past few months, so it’s not surprising that the company is canceling its plans for all future models, including the one model that was thought to be the sole survivor of Bahar’s plans: the long-rumored new generation Esprit.
The new Esprit was previewed by its concept version back at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, while the company was still in the hands of the controversial Dany Bahar. Now that Bahar is gone, and DRB-Hicom is running the show, most of Bahar’s concepts have been given the heave-ho. All that is supposedly left now is the Elise, Exige, and Evora. These models were originally on the list of axed models, but have since received a reprieve. At least for now.
The Evora is the only relatively new model in Lotus’ line-up, having just been launched in 2008. The Elise and Exige have been on the market ever since 1995. This means that Lotus’ new plans to drop the Esprit will begin the company’s new era with an old lineup. Hopefully, they have plans in place to change that.
The Lotus Nemesis was able to shatter the U.K. land speed record for an electric vehicle in September 2012, but many people didn’t even know this vehicle existed. Did Lotus create an electric model while no one was looking?
No, the Nemesis isn’t an all-new electric vehicle built by Lotus in an attempt to rebuild its damaged image. The Nemesis is actually a one-off Lotus Elise converted to electric power by Ecotricity – a Great Britain-based renewable energy company.
Typically, when you think of the electric vehicle, you imagine the likes of the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV; you think, a slow and ugly buggy that looks as if the manufacturer built it out of spite rather than to actually sell. Well, first we had Tesla eliminating the ugly and slow stereotypes rather effectively and now you have this Nemesis ripping that stereo type to shreds and stomping it into the ground.
Click past the just to read our full review on the Lotus Nemesis. Full story
Okay, so as we all know, the automotive rumormill has a habit of bouncing back and forth before finally resting on the truth. Back in August, we heard a rumor that the Alpine would be built in a joint venture between Renault-Nissan and Caterham. Then just days later, we started exploring the possibility of the Alpine and Infiniti Emerg-E being a Renault-Nissan and Lotus project, given the Emerg-E was already built on the Lotus Evora platform and it would be simpler to build both the Emerg-e and Alpine on the same platform.
Well, it looks as if the Lotus and Nissan talk is done with, as Caterham appears to have swooped in and all but completed a deal with Renault Nissan. Sky News is reporting that Caterham boss, Tony Fernandes, is just about to put ink to paper on a $400 million production deal that will join Caterham and Renault-Nissan at the hip on the Alpine project. The deal would involve a 50-50 split in cost and profits between Renault-Nissan and Caterham.
There is no mention as to whether this will also affect the Emerg-E’s production plans, but chances are that the Emerg-E will remain a Lotus and Renault-Nissan project, since both companies are already so deeply entrenched in the deal.
This also effectively eliminates the chances that the Emerg-E and Renault Alpine will share any significant DNA. It is very doubtful if Lotus would be willing to lend its platform to Caterham for a project that it back-doored from the already struggling sports car builder.
We’ll keep a close eye on this situation because it could boil over into something a little more, as the two rivals compete to snag up a little extra business. The deal is expected to be reviewed on Monday and approved in just a few weeks.
While the folks in France are checking out the new rides at the Paris Auto Show, in the UK, people are keeping themselves busy breaking records. A battery-powered Lotus Elise developed by utility company, Ecotricity, has reached an average speed of 151 mph near York today. Behind the wheel was 21-year-old Nick Ponting, who managed to smash the previous record of 137 mph set by a Bluebird Electric in 2000.
The Nemesis completed two runs along Elvington Airfield over a one mile distance, with Nick Ponting breaking the record on the first set of consecutive runs with an average speed of 148 mph. The electric supercar achieved this record with the use of two electric motors that develop a total of 330 HP. This setup also sprints it from 0 to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds.
Dale Vince OBE, founder of Ecotricity said: "This is brilliant. We built the Nemesis to smash the stereotype of electric cars as something Noddy would drive – slow, boring, not cool – and I think we’ve done exactly that today. Hopefully this will further stimulate debate about the future of transport in Britain and how we’ll be getting around when the world runs out of oil. What we’ve been able to demonstrate is that wind-powered cars are not just feasible, but can be a load of fun."
In the dust stirred up by Dany Bahar, we managed to miss the fact that DRB-Hicom also dismissed two senior executives from Lotus for “gross misconduct.” One was the 6-year head of legal resources and the other had 17 years in as the head of human resources. These employees are now taking Lotus to an employment tribunal saying that they were dismissed unfairly, were harassed, and had to endure sexual and racial discrimination by the new Lotus parent.
From the report, the two fired executives underwent “intense interrogation sessions” after DRB-Hicom took over and started investigating the actions of Bahar. They are also claiming that the management company is more interested in “Malaysianizing” the company rather than fixing it.
One lawsuit is a random happening, but to get three lawsuits for very similar cases seems like a trend to us. Maybe Bahar isn’t all wrong in this entire thing. The man is certainly at fault for using corporate money like it was his own personal Monopoly bank, but maybe his termination was a little bit less on the “up and up” as we anticipated.
All of this is coming straight on the heels of DRB-Hicom announcing that it is in talks to bring in a foreign partner to help clean up Proton Holdings Bhd, which includes Lotus. We’ll keep an eye on this to see if it may negatively impact the talks that are going on between the Malaysian company and its potential foreign partner.
It has been a little while since we last checked in on Lotus and its ongoing woes, but we have a small bit of news to pass on. There has been much speculation that DRB-Hicom has been considering offloading some or all of the Proton and Lotus money vacuum to the highest bidder. We all assumed it would be Volkswagen AG, but V-Dub has recently said that it is done with acquisitions, for now.
Reports out of Malaysia say that DRB-Hicom is now working on bringing in a “Foreign partner” to Proton Holdings Bhd, Lotus’s direct parent company. The reports are stating that the talks about this introduction are still in preliminary phases, but the announcement of talks alone is enough to tell us that DRB-Hicom is seriously looking into a way to stop the bleeding via an outside source.
With Volkswagen saying that it has stopped only acquisitions leads us to suspect that it has a small hand in these talks. Volkswagen and DRB-Hicom could easily enter into a nudge-wink type of relationship, much like the VW-Porsche takeover, and reap the benefits without much risk by simply becoming partners then later deciding to “restructure” the partnership.
This would ultimately give VW a clear port of entry into Southeast Asia – something it sorely needs – and give DRB-Hicom some much-needed financial relief and maybe a little boost in sales. Also, with Volkswagen’s reputation of turning around faltering car companies, a Volkswagen-DRB-Hicom-Proton Bdh partnership could ultimately save Lotus from potential extinction.
As we said, the discussions are preliminary and there is no confirmation that the talks even involve VW. It just seems like a perfect fit for every party involved. We’ll keep you updated on this as more information comes out.
There has been much speculation in the automotive world about VW looking into buying Proton from DRB-Hicom, and later came the announcement that VW’s labor group would not support additional acquisitions. It looks like - at least the smoke and mirrors make it look like - VW is done buying any more projects for the foreseeable future.
This all comes thanks to a report from Bloomberg, through Handelsblatt, that VW’s CEO, Marin Winterkorn, has said “We have enough to do at the moment in taking our twelve brands to where we want to be” in response to the company possibly buying Proton. He also said “We need to grow in Southeast Asia,” then followed that up with “but that does not mean that we will buy Malaysia’s Proton, like some are speculating.”
In the world of automobile acquisitions, you can always take a CEO’s words with a grain of salt, as they are saying what is true at any given second. At the drop of a hat, that truth can suddenly change, especially if DRB-Hicom decides to offer up Proton at a bargain price. Add in the fact that VW has been very shady with its business tactics lately – avoiding the tax man and sneaking Ducati under Lamborghini’s umbrella to help it meet mpg standards – and you can see why we don’t believe a word of what Winterkorn says.
VW will say what it needs to say in order to keep its labor group happy, but ultimately it is in the automobile manufacturing game to make money. If Proton and/or Lotus are seen as potential profit, VW will tell the labor group to suck it up, as they ink a deal for the Malaysian automotive group.
We’ll keep a close eye on this whole situation and see if VW stays true to it word or reverses ship if Proton falls in its lap.