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Evaluating The Lotus Rant: Fact And Fiction

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Unless you've been living under a rock since Tuesday, you know about Lotus' rant in response to what it perceives as rampant falsehood and inaccurate reporting of its current situation, both in terms of product and its corporate status. Frustration in the face of potentially harmful reporting is easy to understand, even if the decision to issue a sharp-tongued screed isn't, so let's take a look at the facts--and the fiction.

First we'll look at Lotus' supplied facts and the rumors that prompted their presentation. Then we'll delve into whether anything beside the numerous "false rumours" was fictional as well.

False rumour #1: Dany Bahar is no longer CEO of Group Lotus.
The unnamed Lotus manifesto artist starts with a question of Dany Bahar's status as CEO of Group Lotus. Lotus lays the blame for this "false rumour" at Tony Fernandes' feet, as he's the team principal for once-named-Lotus-now-named-Caterham F1 Team. However, despite crediting Fernandes with the rumor propagation, a scouring of web turns up no results of any news outlet claiming Bahar is no longer CEO of Group Lotus--the strongest statement is that Bahar was on leave for undisclosed reasons--though that may be a side effect of the relevant search terms being dominated by various reports, responses, and repostings of the "meltdown" release itself.

False rumour #2: Dato’ Sri Syed is no longer Managing Director of Proton
This one did make a small foray into the media, via The Edge Financial Daily, a Malaysian news outlet. Some other outlets followed up with similar reports, but offered a healthy dose of skepticism at the same time. However, Proton Holdings issued a statement denying the truth of the reports of Syed's resignation--a full day before the Lotus response. One small report from a regional news outlet--not the "lots of people" claimed--doesn't seem like much reason for umbrage, especially when the parent company quickly set the record straight.

False rumour #3: Joe Saward is JUST an independent journalist
We're not sure who Lotus is insulting with the emphasis on "just" in the claimed rumor, nor can we confirm sure it's a rumor or even a statement anyone might have made. Saward has not hidden his relationship to the Caterham Group (as a non-executive director) and his personal blog on the F1 scene, while detailed and capably reported, is far from the last word on the subject. You can go here for Saward's original writings on the matter (which use the word "rumoured" more than Lotus' own release does, not so incidentally) and here for his response.

False rumour #4: Group Lotus is no longer involved in F1
We brought you the official announcement, which included the following: "There is no longer a financial arrangement between Group Lotus and the Lotus F1 Team, but continued teamwork, brand alignment and shared goals. The team name 'Lotus' and indeed the chassis name, will continue unchanged." That must have been too unclear for Lotus. Then there's this report from Reuters, quoting Lotus F1 Team and Genii Capital chairman Gerard Lopez, which describes the new deal as the loss of Group Lotus sponsorship but an agreement to allow the team to use the name through 2017. That's substantially the same as Lotus' clarification, with the exception of the details on the $30 million loan Group Lotus provided in return for the entirety of the F1 team as collateral.

Whatever it is, the new deal is certainly no title sponsorship, though it is an ongoing relationship with F1, so we'll call this one a tie. Or we would, if Lopez hadn't followed up (in his official statement) with, "We funded the team last year and the year before; we would prefer to have sponsors up to the full amount, but if we have to fund it then we will fund it."

False rumour #5: Group Lotus is going into administration
This one is more clearly in Lotus' favor, as administration--the equivalent to bankruptcy in America, more or less--is a situation that would require filing of government documents and likely an announcement of the same--if it were already underway. However, the reports Lotus refutes here are merely that administration may be pending, as a possible outcome of the acquisition of Proton, Lotus' parent company, by DRB-Hicom.

The topic itself likely arose out of the due diligence investigations into Lotus' financial situation, which has revealed reports of up to GBP200 million in debt. With that much debt, if Proton/DRB-Hicom doesn't sell Lotus off to some cash-infusing buyer, administration is one possible outcome. Which is exactly what the reports have said.

So now onto the fiction
Rumor 2: First, we have a cheap shot at Mike Gascoyne (Caterham's CTO) in the form of a joke deriding the team's lack of the championship points he predicted to win last season. We consider that a bit of a low blow, as Gascoyne should naturally be positive about the outlook of his team at the start of the season--as unrealistic as it may have been.


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Comment (1)
  1. It's obvious the people running Lotus are just hyping the company up as much as they can in order to lure some Chinese or Indian firm with deep pockets to buy them. Participating in motorsports gets the Lotus name out there for a lot less money than actually building cars.. the question remains is anyone willing to buy them. My guess is yes, as Chinese automakers in particular are keen for foreign prestige brands. Don't expect future Lotus cars, if there are any, to be anything like Colin Chapman envisaged.
     
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