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.
Included in the ribbing is Tony Fernandes, who gets some friction from Lotus over his Twitter stream, and a slam for his team being a backmarker rather than a front-runner as Lotus Renault is shaping up to be. Another cheap shot, to be sure, and also irrelevant to anything other than establishing that this is a pissing contest, not a legitimate myth-busting operation.
Rumor 3: Moving to Joe Saward, Lotus takes another shot--though it says it doesn't want to get "too personal," despite the shots just taken at Gascoyne and Fernandes--and proceeds to imply Saward is somehow beholden to Caterham when it comes to his writing about Lotus' situation--except for the fact that Saward readily discloses his non-journalist roles on his website, and takes great pains to couch all of his musings on Lotus' predicament in the language of "rumour," while writing what is clearly opinion on what those rumors might mean, should they prove true.
If no one were to write about Lotus except for its official announcements and new (actual) products, as the company seems to desire, there would be precious little to write about indeed. Moreover, the fact that such rumors are circulating at all--whether precisely accurate or not--is merely another sign of the admitted problems within Lotus.
Rumor 5: Lotus then begins to close its rant with a confused penultimate paragraph on the status of the Proton/DRB-Hicom takeover. First stating that the takeover of Proton "couldn't have come at a worse time," Lotus follows up by saying that Proton had "up until that point" been in support of Lotus' five-year plan to expand its factory, hiring, and product portfolio--and yet, somehow "still remains" so. Which is it, Lotus? Was the plan supported up until that point, or does it still continue to be supported? From what we see here, it could go either way. Way to start another rumor.
Reading further into that paragraph, Lotus goes on to admit funding for the "still...fully committed" plan has been restricted, and that DRB-Hicom is "taking time to understand what to do with the business." What might be done with Lotus? The release doesn't say what--but we think the media reports on the matter offer a pretty exhaustive examination of the possibilities. Despite this murky and self-contradictory explanation of the matter, Lotus goes on to say that these speculative media reports, or as it terms them, the "over-active rumour mill," are "seriously damaging our business reputation, image and credibility..." Yeah, it's the conspiratorial media that's doing the damage. Right.
And the final paragraph shines the light of fiction on the entire missive, admitting that Lotus is fighting to keep its vision alive. If there were no indication that the vision might die, what need for the fight?
So what does all of this mean?
Perhaps the most informative reading of the Lotus meltdown manifesto isn't the literal content, but what is shouted between the lines. Somehow, a global company with decades of history at the leading edge of motorsport and production car technology has managed to come off sounding like a defensive, snotty child, peeved that his peers are talking about him in the lunchroom--and it did so not just in a private email or a leaked document, but in a message blasted on every channel available, to all corners of the world.
That Lotus should think this sort of response to be appropriate, much less beneficial to its cause, speaks volumes more about the situation within the company. The frustration, tension, and emotional instability for those working within Lotus must be intense--understandably so, with so much looming over their heads. But don't mind any of that--Lotus hasn't denied it's going through a very difficult phase.
"Never let the truth get in the way of a good story," indeed. We couldn't have said it better ourselves.
Note: The author, far from bearing any animosity whatsoever toward Lotus, is in fact a huge fan of the company and its products--and for good reason. The article above is simply an honest attempt to analyze the beloved brand's incomprehensibly inept response to the media attention surrounding its current financial, product, and ownership issues.