Is Lotus about to be sold?
Lotus Cars could be in trouble. Well, they could be in trouble if they get sold to the wrong company, that is. If Proton decide to offload them it could go one of two ways - certain companies have flourished when sold to the correct company - see Jaguar land Rover and Mini. Some haven't done so well - see MG. Bloomberg has done some investigating and found that all may not be well in Malaysia and Norfolk.
Proton, the Malaysian maker of sedans and taxis that bought control of Lotus in 1996, hasn’t made any profit from the British unit for 15 years and probably won’t at least until 2014. Now that Proton itself may be divested by its state-run parent, investors such as Gan Eng Peng say Lotus Group International Ltd. is ripe for a sale.
“It will make sense for them to sell it,” said Gan, who helps oversee about $3.6 billion as head of equities at Hwang DBS Investment Management Bhd. in Kuala Lumpur. “Proton and Lotus are not a good fit. They are in different market segments, both in terms of geography and product.”
Lotus, which has struggled to compete against Porsche and Ferrari in Europe, has hung on to relevance in the auto industry partly because of its decades-long expertise in designing lightweight frames. Still, the company may need the backing of a carmaker more global than Proton to survive in an industry where carmakers such as Saab Automobile are filing for bankruptcy, according to Gan. Lotus showed 6 new concept cars at the Geneva Motor Show in 2010, but the first of these new models - the Esprit won't likely reach production until 2013 at the earliest after they decided to develop their own engine instead of reworking a Lexus V8 engine. It will likely be a naturally aspirated 5.0 V8 with over 500bhp in standard form.
There are also new versions of the Elise, a new city car, a front engined 2+2 with a folding hard top named Elite and a four door coupe-saloon called the Eterne. The last two would be powered by the same engine as the Esprit but in the front of the car.
Hopefully if Proton do decide to sell Lotus, the company would go to a company that would develop the company and return it to the lightweight roots it became famous for. Many think that the new direction Lotus is going in is totally against the original principles of adding performance through lightweight design, not just adding weight and a more powerful engine.
Only time will tell though. We would like to see Lotus go to a company with the vision to develop it – maybe a partnership with Aston Martin as they share aluminium chassis technologies. Though the owners of Aston Martin aren’t exactly pouring money into that company either, so maybe someone could swoop in and save both, making a super-Brit sportscar company. We can but dream…
Report from of Bloomberg, Images courtesy of Lotus