Lotus development plan delayed by Proton sale

Lotus development plan delayed by Proton sale

08/03/2012 in

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Lotus development plan delayed by Proton sale

Plans to develop new Lotus models could be delayed following the Malaysian government’s decision to sell its 42.7% stake in Proton to automotive manufacturer DRB-Hicom for £261 million.

DRB has bought a further 7% in Proton taking its stake to 49.7%.

Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar admitted to performance car magazine Evo he was “taken aback” by the announcement by the Malaysian government and product development would be put on hold.

DRB is currently in a due diligence window and it is yet to decide if it will retain Lotus as part of its Proton acquisition or sell it off.

DRB-Hicom group managing director Muhammad Khamil Jamil has already said he will consider selling Lotus as it looks to boost Proton’s financial performance.

Lotus axed its entire European sales network last year and rehired new partners as part of an ambitious relaunch which aims to put Lotus on a par with Aston Martin and Ferrari.

The proposed new Lotus sports car line-up and when they were supposed to be introduced to the market:

What: Mid-engined V8 supercar
Key rival: Ferrari 458 Italia
When: March 2013

What: Front-engined V8 2+2
Key rival Ferrari California
When October 2013

What: Supermini built with Proton
Key rival: Aston Martin Cygnet
When: Spring 2014

What: Repeat of today’s two-seat roadster
Key rival: Porsche Boxster
When: 2015

What: Four-seater four-door
Key rival: Aston Martin Rapide
When: 2015

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Lotus registrations have been in a downward trend for the past 12 years and show little sign of improving.

Registrations for 2013 averaged little more than one car a month for each of its 14 dealers, although it was still a better year than 2012 and the ambitious new model plans revealed with unprecedented fanfare at the 2010 Paris Motor Show now seem like a surreal fantasy.

But the basic ingredients for a successful niche manufacturer are still there. The three-car line-up – the Elise, Exige and Evora – comes with proven Toyota power, offering driving enthusiasts more thrills per pound than almost any rival, and the engineering know-how found in the talented staff at its Norfolk HQ is legendary.

A £100 million investment from its new management, DRB Hi-Com, to fund new models, as well as a £10m government grant to help train more than 300 new staff, are welcome boosts. The turnaround can’t come soon enough.

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