Just a few months back, Lotus CEO Dany Bahar was given a new four-year contract by parent company Proton. For a short while, at least, it was easy to believe that Lotus would actually execute on its plan to deliver a range of new sports car models.
Then came word that the Malaysian government was selling its 42.7-percent stake in Proton, to industrial conglomerate DRB-Hicom
. Suddenly, the outlook for Lotus, which has never turned a profit for Proton, began to look more than a little cloudy
At last week’s Geneva Motor Show, Evo
sat down with Bahar to discuss the future of Lotus in light of the recent sale. Bahar admitted to being “completely taken aback” by the transaction, in particular its required 90-day “lockdown period,” during which only normal trading activities are permitted.
In other words, Lotus is currently banned from conducting the bulk of its R&D work on new models, which will delay the launch of everything from the new Exige S and Evora GTE
to the highly anticipated Esprit
The earliest a new Esprit is likely to hit the market is now 2014, and that’s if new parent DRB-Hicom decides to keep Lotus in the family. To help with that goal, Bahar is currently commuting to Kuala Lumpur on a weekly basis to share Lotus’ five-year plan with its new owners.
The period of due diligence is up at the end of March, which is when Bahar expects to receive feedback on Lotus’ business plans. While CEOs are frequently known for their unbridled optimism, Bahar remains circumspect, giving Lotus’ chances under DRB-Hicom just 50-50 odds.
Despite this, Lotus is moving forward with a host of activities. There’s a new Formula 1 effort
to talk about, along with the opening of a flagship retail store on London’s Regent Street. Lotus is also the featured marque at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, which should offer the brand plenty of media exposure.