By on May 13, 2011

On my way home from Toronto’s trendy Queen West nightlife district, I often take the long way home, up through the newly gentrified working class neighborhoods of the city’s west end, which gives the chance to drive past a row of exotic car dealerships. A quarter mile stretch is home to Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Bentley, Land Rover and Lotus. The Lotus dealer formerly sold Ferraris as well, and the place was a long-time haunt when I was a child, where the only two cars in stock were a Mondial T and a gorgeous British Racing Green Esprit S4.

The same Esprit later ended up in the hands of a neighbor, a geeky looking guy who was probably in IT and also owned an Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight LSS. I had no real idea about the Esprit’s mechanical content, just that it made a fantastic racket when it would tear through the flat, straight stretches of my neighborhood – and I loved the color.

Over a decade later, I have my first Lotus experience with an Elise. For all the overwrought prose written about the car, the Elise really stood up to the hype. I loved the ultra low seating position with its one-piece buckets, the heavy, manual steering, the way I could be at eye level with the undercarriage of a city bus. Like many poseurs who’ve never driven a Lotus beyond the pixilated world of Gran Turismo, I used to dream about Exiges, but the Elise was more than enough to make me smile.

I was present at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, where Lotus unveiled their all new lineup for the next 5 years. The presentation was grandiose, with CEO Dany Bahar making all kinds of bold proclamations, trotting out C-List celebrities and showing off pieces from Lotus’ new “lifestyle” collection of branded apparel. The cars themselves look like different lengths of the same sausage, and there was even a sedan in the lineup, while the branded gear is seemingly the British alternative to Ferrari’s own lineup of merchandise.

Usually, the announcement of 5 new supercars would be greeted with the same enthusiasm as Scarlett Johansson announcing her upcoming Brazzer’s debut, but instead we were treated to apoplectic rage. Like a severely autistic child unable to break out of a behavior pattern, the same people who spend more time tweeting about cars than actually driving demanded to know what had happened to Lotus, and the barebones minimalist ethos propagated by Colin Chapman. Why were the cars unrecognizable as Lotus vehicles, and why was there a lifestyle component?

The answer is because things change. The Elise was first introduced in 1997. We still had dial-up internet and the Plymouth Prowler. The Motorola StarTAC was the hottest cell phone, and a nearly-broke boutique sports car company released a bathtub on 4 wheels with the engine out of an appallingly bad Rover subcompact. By the time the Elise is replaced by one of Dany Bahar’s creations, it will be 20 years old. Not even the Acura NSX stagnated for that long. Lest we forget that the previous Esprit was cool, but not very good, with styling that was essentially fossilized and a dreadful gearbox that was stolen from a French plumber’s Renault Kangoo while he was protesting a proposed change to a 35 hour work week.

By far the most hilarious criticism from the perpetually single keyboard jockeys is the Zola-like cries of “J’Accuse” leveled at Dany Bahar, for not being a “car guy”. Thank Fucking Christ. If someone tells me at a social function they’re a “car guy” I can be sure that I’ll spend the next hour hearing opinions of cars they’ve never driven, and their grand strategy for how Company X can revive their flagging product lineup, which is selling quite well. They will probably be wearing Puma or Piloti “racing shoes” and drive an automatic transmission midsize sedan as a “daily” while their dilapidated, non-running “drift/track/project car” sits at home, the victim of an over-ambitious engine swap and poorly made Chinese Ebay parts. The closest they’ll ever get to a Lotus is the velvet rope at their regional auto show.

Fortunately, Bahar has something for you. Because you can’t possibly afford a Lotus car, Bahar will sell you a baseball cap or polo shirt with a Lotus logo on it. Coming from Ferrari, Bahar knows all about selling merchandise to aspirational millionaires making $30,000 a year. I wanted to vomit when I heard him talk about “the brand” being a “lifestyle statement”, but fuck it, if that’s going to keep the company in business, then it deserves a shot. If you want to argue that it “dilutes the brand values”, then you might as well find organized religion, because nothing is more pathetic than believing phony narratives cooked up by sycophantic journalists and boardroom marketing jockeys about a car you’ve never driven. All too often these “values” are supposed to reflect your own vanity. You identify with the brand and said values because you see yourself as, say, a “no frills pure sports car guy”, even though you are a middle manager that drives a Jeep Compass and your wife would never let you buy anything with two doors, let alone a stick shift. You don’t have to deal with rainwater entering the cabin of your Elise, or having your voice go hoarse due to insufferable cabin noise, but boy do you like to think about taking down those Ferrari driving I-bankers at a track day in your imaginary Exige S 240, while you sit open-mouthed by a glowing laptop screen in your basement apartment as you read “The Car Lounge”, and buying some branded merchandise will let you feel like you’re part of the Lotus family.

Alan Mullaly was “not a car guy”. Ford is, without a doubt, the best of the big 3, and can go toe to toe with any volume manufacturer. Stephan Winklemann, head of Lamborghini, started out in finance. Soichiro Honda was more interested in aviation and motorcycles than cars. Car guys, on the other hand, fuck things up. It’s not that they create bad products, it’s that they create products that don’t appeal to the buying public, that only they would buy. Witness the complaints about the new Ford Explorer being a piece of junk, and losing its way by using a car platform. They’re selling so fast that Ford dealers can’t keep them on the lots. The joke about car guys thinking that the entire world’s needs are met by old BMW’s, Miatas and Jeeps is funny for a reason. If car guys had their way, the Elise and Exige would stay in production for another 15 years, and the company would be six feet under long before that. Hell, the reason Lotus needs to completely change direction is precisely because they have sold the kind of cars the “enthusiast” loves, and it has failed to bring them financial security. Car companies are a business, not a public utility meant to serve penniless car geeks with delusions of automotive grandeur, and as DJ Quik famously remarked “if it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense”. The current path Lotus is on is unsustainable and the logical thing to do is try something else.

I know that an Elise will still bring me joy if it weighs 2600lbs and has a 350 horsepower turbo engine, even if it’s a very different experience than a 1975lbs version with a screaming 1.8L Toyota motor. But to the car guy, who defines himself not through actions and behaviors, but through material things and fallacious narratives, the former Elise is the only one that can exist, because it ostensibly says something about who he is, his tastes and likes and how he sees himself – an iconoclast of impeccable, sophisticated taste, willing to forgo the usual German brand in favor of the snob appeal of the Lotus, and thus the root of their angst at Lotus, which has spurned their constructed identity in favor of the wealthy, moneyed set that they could never hope to be a part of.

All the bitching and whining about Lotus and their new directions takes on a weirdly narcissistic character that betrays a lack of empathy typical for people who spend too much time on the computer. The fact that Lotus ignores the collective opinion of the automotive media only stokes the flames, and thus we get people lashing out at Bahar as an “over-coifed little shit”. The use of ad hominems may be artistic license for a blogger, but there are manifold others expressing a similar sentiment, while actually meaning it, as if they were lashing out at Brooklyn Decker because she refused to go to bed with them.

Although nobody could accuse me of being “to the manor born”, I know plenty of people who are either Lotus target customers, or better yet, current Maserati, Porsche, BMW M or AMG owners. They are professionals making well into the six figures (if not seven), and can afford a sports car as well as a sedan for taking people out to dinner, and a luxury SUV for the winter. None of them would ever consider a Lotus. The reasons are diverse from “I once owned [insert British car here] and it was shit…” to “I can’t get in and out of that thing more than once” to “$50k for a car with no carpets? Are you mental”? Current Lotus owners may mock the company’s new direction, but the fact remains that Lotus has very few buyers for its very niche products, and if they want to survive, they need to poach customers from established luxury and exotic brands, and the current lineup is NOT what’s going to help them achieve their goals.

So far, much of the Lotus lineup is preliminary and merely an indication of where the brand is going to go. We know for sure that the days of bare metal cabins and leaky roofs are gone, and leather seats, soundproofing and turbocharged engines are in. If these cars were made by any other company, people would applaud. It’s absolutely a deviation from the brand’s current direction, but surprisingly, people like to have conversations at normal volumes while driving, and hate having rain leak through the top of the car, and if Lotus is to survive, they will have to start making cars that attract these sorts of buyers.

Last night I made another stop at the Lotus dealer, hoping to get a few pictures with my new DSLR camera. None of them came out right, except for this shot of an Evora sitting in a service bay. If Lotus were to continue down their current path, this scene would not exist for much longer, when the dealer was inevitably shuttered and turned into yet another tower full of 500 square foot condos retailing at Manhattan-like prices. If the trade-off of being able to peer into a scene like this at 1 A.M. on a Thursday is a 4-door Lotus, then I’m prepared to swallow that pill.

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61 Comments on “Lotus And The “Enthusiast Trap”: When Industry And Media Collide...”


  • avatar
    galloping_gael

    Nice rant. Quality. And I agree with the gist of it. Now to step away from the computer and into my automatic sedan (diesel, mind you).
    Mr Euro

  • avatar
    Quentin

    LOVE the paragraph about meeting a car guy at a party. 90% of the time, the car guy is really a Mustang guy or a Nissan guy or a 60s era GM guy. I used to be an Impreza guy. Thank goodness I grew out of that phase. I still love Imprezas, but you’re silly to limit your knowledge and experience to just one type.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    You should have opened with your admiration of Matt Hardigree, so I would have known not to waste my time. The Lotus of Colin Chapman stopped building real elemental sports cars long before he got caught embezzling from the Irish government. The Elise was a way for Lotus to carve out a niche after failing miserably to go head to head with Ferrari or Porsche with cars like the Esprit, Elite, Eclat, and M100 Elan. If the real sports car niche isn’t big enough to sustain Lotus, going back to the previous business model seems like folly. As an investor, Lotus knows better than I do whether their current model creates a return. As a real investor, I can give you fifty better places to put your money than a troubled small volume car maker. It is a non-starter. As a car enthusiast, the loss of variety represented by Lotus chasing people who want to make a statement rather than go to a track day is just that, a loss. As a non-enthusiast, what are you doing writing about cars?

    • 0 avatar
      CraigSu

      With the unnecessary coarse language and diatribe I had to wonder how a Jalopnik writer got in here. What a waste of editorial space.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      +100 CJinSD!!

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed on all counts. That Matt Hardigree guy is an under-coifed little shit.

    • 0 avatar
      Uncle Mellow

      This might seem like a minor detail to you.
      “The Lotus of Colin Chapman stopped building real elemental sports cars long before he got caught embezzling from the Irish government.”
      I presume you are talking about the De Lorean affair. The Irish government refused to back DeLorean because they thought he was a cowboy. The British government invested in DeLorean….

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        http://www.niauditoffice.gov.uk/pubs/reports/2004/DeLorean/FullReport.pdf

        The Northern Ireland Department of Commerce and the Northern Ireland Development Agency invested in DeLorean. You can read the details on page 21 of the Northern Ireland Audit Office’s report. Is this a question of a divided Ireland, or are you just incorrect?

      • 0 avatar
        Nicodemus

        No, Uncle Mellow is correct. The Irish Government refers to the Republic of Ireland – Eire, ‘the south’ etc.

        The ‘British Government’ (actually the UK to be pedantic)is the authority concerned here with the Northern Ireland Department of Commerce and the Northern Ireland Development Agency being a QUANGO thereof.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Riding through with flaming sword!
    Interesting read. I will admit that I desperately want a Lotus Evora. I know absolutely nothing about this car, except that it looks really cool in Forza 3.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The rest of you should grow the f*ck up.

    Never! I am going to complain until my voice is hoarse and my fingers are bloody.

  • avatar
    AKADriver

    Can’t agree with this one bit. Perhaps because I am that guy – though my daily driver IS a Miata, because I’m not stupid enough to ruin it with ambitious shadetree tuning. But in a deeper sense, I don’t give a crap what makes money for car companies – unless that success translates to them being able to afford making unprofitable cars that are actually interesting. I’m quite glad that Ford is doing well producing cars that I can appreciate; but I am completely unimpressed by the success of a brand like Toyota.

    If Lotus finds success selling embroidered jackets and two-ton luxury cars, that’s great for them, but don’t expect me to cheer. Why should I? I like the Elise.

    I’m honestly a bit perplexed by this attitude that “what’s best for the company is what’s best for everyone”. I first encountered it in that car lounge you deride. When you admired that Esprit, were you admiring it for its style and snorting V8? Or were you fantasizing about the impact on Lotus’ bottom line from being able to use that sexy Saturn SC2 steering wheel? Be honest.

    • 0 avatar

      I was 10 years old and utterly convinced that the Acura NSX was the zenith of human accomplishment. Take it with a grain of salt.

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      If Lotus finds success selling embroidered jackets and two-ton luxury cars, that’s great for them, but don’t expect me to cheer. Why should I? I like the Elise.

      Because if they can make enough money selling jackets and luxury cars they may be able to keep the Elise going with improvements over the years. The question is, If they do well with the luxury products will they or won’t they abandon the Elise?

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      The rant was about people getting mad that companies are “selling out” in order to be profitable rather than the author’s admiration for profitable companies. Lotus needs some method of subsidizing their niche sports cars. Building cars with a larger appeal will likely lead to profits that can fund their niche sports cars. It is pretty much the opposite problem that Toyota has. Toyota cut their sports cars because they didn’t make any money. Now they are left with a lineup lacking anything special and that is negatively affecting the brand image. There has to be balance. Toyota needs fun cars to keep from becoming an uncool car (and thus hurting sales) and Lotus needs profitable cars to continue building their pure sports cars.

      Besides the Mustang, what makes Fords so appealing to you, Miata driver*? The Focus, Fusion, and Fiesta all lack a fun variant (no WRX, Si, GTI versions, for example). The ecoboost engine sounds fun, but it is in SUVs and trucks, which kills the sport appeal for me.

      *I was so close to buying an 06 Miata last summer. My wife, and excel, convinced me that putting that $15k toward my house was a far better decision. Brutal that I cut a $15k check and had nothing new in the garage.

      • 0 avatar
        AKADriver

        The Fiesta and Focus are it, really – probably the least-profitable end of the lineup, too. They’re not outright fun cars, but they are cars that offer better-than-average style and driver enjoyment for their respective classes. I’d still probably end up in their Mazda counterparts, were I in the market, but I haven’t driven a ’12 Focus yet.

      • 0 avatar
        1981.911.SC

        Hey…..Should have dropped $4500 on a 1999 and put the rest on the house. The 1999 fixed (or fucked up depending on your point of view) the pop up headlight.
        My 20 yr old son and I share a 1988 Porsche Targa 911 and a 1999 Miata, he loves the 911 and I love Miata. They are both fun to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        I’m holding off on the Miata to see how this FR-S pans out. After driving the Miata at interstate speed (along with the S2000), I determined that a soft top just wasn’t in the cards for me as a DD/weekend toy. I need to be able to drive it to my folks’ house for the weekend (4 hrs of interstate and highway), and the Miata would simply be brutal on that drive. So, I’ll hold off just a bit longer until the retractable hardtop models come down in price or Toyota/Subaru make my dreams come true with a small, cheap, light, rwd coupe with a liftback.

  • avatar
    kkt

    My, I haven’t seen this much cussing on ttac since RF.

    I’m not sure making cars with broader appeal will work out so well for Lotus. When they were just trying to make the best roadworthy gocarts in the world, they didn’t have any competition. Trying to make a better BMW, on the other hand, they’re going to have trouble standing out from a dozen other manufacturers trying to do the same thing.

  • avatar

    tl;dr

    2077 words.

    Jack would’ve done as well with more strippers in 1250.

  • avatar
    V572625694

    Does anyone edit these articles before they’re posted? Lotta repetition in there.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    A quarter mile stretch is home to Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Bentley, Land Rover and Lotus.

    Where on the way back from Queen West did you see this, or when was this? I ask because the Lotus dealer is up on Dupont at Ossington and everything else in Yorkville, or at least has been for some time. That’s way more than a quarter-mile, and a long way from Queen West.

    • 0 avatar

      Drove up from Queen and Ossington, up Ossington, onto Dupont, heading East. I estimated from the Lotus showroom until the end of the Bentley showroom is a quarter mile, but I think in metric, so it’s rough at best.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      You’re right that Gentry Lane is up on Dupont, but Grand Touring is a couple doors over, and they’ve got RR, Aston, Jag, and Land Rover under one roof, and Bentley in a separate building.

      And it’s not exactly nearby, but it’s not a terrible walk – I’ve gone from Queen and John to Dufferin and St. Clair just because I didn’t feel like waiting for the TTC.

  • avatar
    MR2turbo4evr

    “….just that it sounded hard as a motherfucker when it would tear through the flat, straight stretches of my neighborhood…..”

    Really? Why? Why post something like that in an article? You couldn’t think of any other metaphors?

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    not without precedence

    this is where Porsche was in 1997 (?)

    they were the 911 company and they got considerable stick for the Boxster which now seems relatively minor since we’ve been afflicted with the Cayenne, Cayman and Panamera.

    hitting the enthusiast and diehards is a great way to die for your ideals

    there’s a recent article about Nissan’s profitability

    for every crappy SUV and hatchback they make, we get the Skyline GTR

    as long as they keep making their showcase cars let them make all the dross they need to

    just don’t be Toyota where ALL they made is dross

  • avatar
    fredtal

    Okay here is my rant, I’m on my 2nd Elan and love the car and all it’s variants. I just want that someone somewhere will build sport cars like they really want to. Not because of some marketing/demographic/corporate bs. Build then, drive them, race them. That’s what sport cars are about. You don’t like it, then get your phat rich butt in a inuslated SUV and drive away.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Are you talking about the rear wheel drive Elans or the front wheel drive Elans?

      • 0 avatar

        Since he said “variants”, I’m guessing it’s an original RWD Elan, which came in four series, plus variants like the Big Valve and Sprint models as well as the Elan +2S.

        As a longtime Lotus fan and owner of a ’66 Elan, I know that Chapman was not adverse to luxury and that there was a luxury sedan on the Lotus drawing boards at the time of his death. As his family grew, so did Lotus cars – the later Elite was a four seater. So I don’t think that Chapman would object too much to the company’s new direction, but I still think that Behar doesn’t have a clue about what the Lotus brand means.

        I do machine embroidery so I don’t have a problem with Lotus selling embroidered jackets. Chapman was one of the first racers to understand the importance of commercial sponsorship and promotion. When the iconic Lotus livery of black with gold details first came out, it was taken from the color scheme of packs of John Player Special cigarettes.

        So it’s not like I expect Lotus to be Simon pure, but I do expect them to have a clue about the brand and its heritage. Yesterday on Speed TV there was an episode of Speedmakers, this one focusing on the Evora. The show was made with Lotus’ cooperation and they kept talking about Lotus’ racing heritage, showing the current Group Lotus sponsored Renault F1 car, as if that car has anything to do with the Chapman era racing cars or racing team.

        Lotus indeed needs its current customer base, not just as customers but also as brand evangelists. By almost deliberately thumbing their noses at Lotus fans, the current management team is throwing away that valuable resource.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The Lotus of Colin Chapman already failed once. The Elise was an effort to get back to the principles that set Lotus apart from other small volume sports cars. Elites(’70s models), Esprits, and Eclats weren’t elemental sports cars. They were GTs or super cars. Lotus couldn’t compete with better capitalized automakers in those segments, and they were rescued by the 7 inspired Elise. It doesn’t mean that things have stood still since the mid ’90s. Maybe the solution would be to build another elemental sports car that incorporates the gains in materials and manufacturing techologies that have occured since the Elise was released. Maybe there isn’t a big enough market, but I don’t see how building riskier Porsches and Ferraris is any more the solution now than it was in 1972. Besides, as cars get ever more sybaritic and unsuitable for drivers, perhaps more drivers are getting squeezed into the small volume manufacturer’s niche. There may well never be another real sports car from Honda, Porsche, Ferrari, or Toyota. Mazda is a short timer for the US market. Who knows what GM will do with Corvette. There may be more room for a single sports car manufacturer than ever.

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        “There may well never be another real sports car from Honda, Porsche, Ferrari, or Toyota.”

        The Boxster, Cayman, and 911 are not real sports cars? That’s…shocking.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        They’re certainly not elemental sports cars. They need modifications and decontenting to be track worthy.

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    “and drive an automatic transmission midsize sedan as a “daily” while their dilapidated, non-running “drift/track/project car” sits at home, the victim of an over-ambitious engine swap and poorly made Chinese Ebay parts. The closest they’ll ever get to a Lotus is the velvet rope at their regional auto show.”

    Hey now, you’re skatin on thin ice buddy.

    I’ll have you know that you are a bit pathetic in your own special “trying to finagle free hot rides and hot girls with said rides” way.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    People (and journo’s) are allowed to bitch and complain – it’s the wonderful thing about free speech. You don’t have to listen to it, you don’t have to read it. If you don’t like it, don’t pay any attention to it. Someone else’s opinions are exactly that – someone else’s. Getting into a rage about it isn’t going to solve a huge amount.
    If people want to buy branded gear because they want to be associated with a certain demographic then let them. If they want to bitch and moan about a company’s perceived new direction then let them.
    Anyway, if you wanted a pure sports car along the lines Colin Chapman would approve you’d buy a Caterham, not a Lotus.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      What does that say for the cars Colin Chapman built after selling the rights to the Lotus 7 to Caterham in 1972? The Elise is far closer to a modern Lotus 7 than anything Chapman had a hand in during the decade before he was exposed.

      • 0 avatar
        Advance_92

        The Elise was overpriced when it came to North America in the first place; it’s as silly as a hat or jacket except it cost a lot more to ‘put one on.’

        For reference around 2000 an Impreza Turbo was around twenty thousand pounds while a first generation Elise was twenty-two. Go forward a generation when both came to the US and a WRX listed for twenty-four thousand dollars and an Elise was well over forty.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    “The answer is because things change. The Elise was first introduced in 1997. We still had dial-up internet and the Plymouth Prowler.”
    The Lotus/Caterham 7 was introduced around 1957 , and it was impractical then, is still impractical now, and still sells very nicely. I do realise a certain cult TV show ( The Prisoner ) had some part in its’ popularity.
    Most of the bitching and whining about Lotus’ new direction is because it seems unsustainable, a recipe for disaster.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I’m sort of on the fence about all of this – I appreciate the need for commercial success, but without seeing the finalized product, I have doubts about this current path. They’re trying to go up against some very established players, and more importantly, ones with much bigger bankrolls thanks to corporate parents, or SUV profits, or whatever. It’s not like Lotus is a brand with that much public recognition – without James Bond or Pretty Woman, they’d likely be almost unheard of. No, they’re a branch who mostly sells on the virtue of their hairshirt cars, which makes the leap to shiny plastic brand a little ambitious.

    At least the cars themselves feel like a somewhat organic extension of some of their previous products – but they will have to be mind-bendingly fantastic to justify pissing off the few faithful (or at least the few faithful who’ve actually bought Elises and Exiges). Still, I can’t help but wonder if they’d have more success with the help of a corporate juggernaut like Toyota.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Whatever you want to say about Bahar he did quite a lot to improve Ferrari’s income by merchandising the brand. And before that he was with Red Bull, having impressed Dietrich Mateschitz. Most of the Bahar hate seems to come from the Formula One fans who’ve taken up Tony Fernandes’ cause. If Lotus want’s to remain in the car business they have but two directions they can go; market share or profit margin. There’s no way in hell Lotus will compete with Toyota, VW, or Ford, and the profit margin for a light, low powered moderately priced sports car is not that good, if it were they’d keep right on doing what they have been doing. The path to solvency is what they are now attempting to do, like it or not, and that path is to build posh supercar alternatives to the other posh supercars that everyone with money has. To milk ‘exclusivity’ for all its worth. In the long run performance of these new cars is irrelevant, what really matters is the image that they portray for their owners. Nobody really ‘needs’ a Veyron, an Enzo or a Mclaren F1 for any practical reasons, they’re cars built for the sole prupose of having bragging rights. Whether this is the direction Colin Chapman would go is laughable, along with building wonderful cars he was as manipulative and opportunistic as they come.

  • avatar
    probert

    I think you’ve propped up a strawman to knock down. No doubt there’s folks who embody 1 or more of your lotus lover decriptions but not the whole kaboodle.

    I think the shock of the whole thing – even for innocent onlookers – is that the cars are ugly, heavy and devoid of inspiration. Is that the great marketing that eludes the hoi paloi? Cannot even a gated community semi retard smell the stench of cynical opportunism when so confronted?

    If Lamborghini can make a stunning, light expensive vehicle why not Lotus – it’s what they taught the world? Did anyone ask for another supra? Is this a bizarro world where the Japanese make lotuses and the English make Supras. I need a drink.

    I think what upsets people is not that Lotus’ future success will betray everything the marque stood for, but rather, with the unveiling of these banal objects, the end of Lotus has begun again. And to add insult to injury their latest cars have been so lovely.

  • avatar
    spinjack

    Lotus is simply doing just exactly what Porsche had to do to survive. The Cayenne (an SUV for God’s sake) is/was Porsche’s financial lifeline. Porsche continues to make the 911, some variants of which are still considered truly great sport cars. If Lotus must sell bloated mass market products so that it can continue to sell truly great sports cars, so be it.

  • avatar
    nels2727

    Preaching to the choir here. Rich guys buy GT’s that is why Maserati’s, 911’s, and Jag coupes sell so well. They can have a some stripped down, carbon fiber ultra-light special edition that they sell for an obscene price to stay “true to their roots,” but it’s “greed that will save Teldar paper”…I mean Lotus. I work in fnance and as a young employee I’m not in the Maserati price range yet, but I can tell you that our parking lot is packed full of M’s, AMG’s, a surprising number of Z06’s, and entirely too many Porsche’s, but not a single Lotus. One geeky quant guy from MIT waxes poetic about the Exige, but is too cheap to actually go buy one. If you sell expensive sports cars you want your customer base to be Breitling wearing bond trading douchebags, not MIT educated quants who find short sleeve dress shirts approriate attire.

  • avatar
    MikeAR

    I saw an Elise in the parking lot of a dive strip club in East Texas one night a couple of years ago. The only thing I could think of is why there?

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    I say this was a good rant. Any business can’t survive unless customers want to buy its products. There’s been a lot of this commentary on TTAC about Porsche too. Lotus needs to emulate Porsche’s strategy if it wants to survive. Yes, as an old guy I lament the loss of Porsche’s “purity” from the 60s to the 80s but they would have gone under without the heretical 996, crappy car it may be. It looks like Lotus has learned something.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Ooof. What a rant! Here’s the deal: a brand and a product become identified with each other. I’m thinking of this generic-looking sedan, made in China, that apparently is going to have an “MG” label on it. Being of a certain age, I associate MG with a kind of cute British roadster that was little more civilized as its contemporary from Triumph and not as big or as fast as it’s contemporary from Austin-Healy. I also remember fondly enough the rather tidy-looking B GT as a nice enough little GT. The label has been dead for decades. Slapping it on a generic-looking sedan from China is essentially meaningless: there’s no connection between the product and the brand. They might as well put a couple of Chinese characters on it, AFAIC.

    I’ve chosen a real, but admittedly extreme, example. Less extreme examples are the Porsche brand on a 5,000 lb. SUV and on a 4-door sedan (although the sedan at least seems plausible to me) or, frankly, the BMW blue propellor on a 5,000 lb. SUV. Strictly speaking, this is an attempt at a re-definition of the brand. In the case of the Porsche and BMW SUVs, the re-definition is the concept that an SUV can exhibit performance in the same league as the company’s cars as distinguished from the ponderous bog-sloggers and rock-crawlers typically (at the time) identified as these kinds of vehicles.

    I think this is at the root of people’s complaints about the “re-definition” of the Lotus brand. It risks making a meaningless combination, like the Chinese MG.

    Frankly, I could give a fig about the business strategy behind any of these actions. There are lots of folks who make nice SUVs and who make nice sedans. And the proliferation of “specialty manufacturers” chasing the top 1/2 percent of the income pile is getting kind of tiresome.

  • avatar

    A note on the writing. Curse words have a certain power. It’s recently been documented that cursing after injury can reduce pain. And of course, curse words can hurt someone they are directed at. When you throw them around gratuitously as in this piece, they become impotent.

  • avatar

    A note on the writing. Curse words have a certain power. It’s recently been documented that cursing after injury can reduce pain.

    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1910691,00.html

    And of course, curse words can hurt someone they are directed at. But when you throw them around gratuitously as in this piece, they become impotent.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    running as biz is same as anything whether a church, car company, one need to make the bottom line stays in BLACK.

    Lotus if it werent these loaded malaysian ( or whoever ) keep them afloat with lotsa mulla they would have suffer the same fate as SAAB.

    Building cars was not like 50-60 yrs ago. Even Maybach cannot turn a profit, perhaps some of u best & brightest could see how it went wong?

    Even utilitarian cars like Checker Marathon had to pull its plug 20 some yrs ago. I am not sure if GM kybosh their engines so they cannot go on.

    The DeLorean couldn’t have worked, it really lack any muscles, with an ultra anemic V6 3 litre, it aint going to go anywhere in a hurry.
    If Porsche had been without the Cayenne it wouldnt have got very far.

  • avatar

    Brilliant article. Here’s the historical backup: Aston Martin got by for too many years with what was essentially a 9/8th scale big-block Mustang with handmade “quirks” and a nice interior. (Hold your flames: I owned one. Connolly hides, 48IDFs, rusting sills, and all.) They changed, with Ford’s help, and the purists howled — not least because the DB7 wasn’t really handmade, and the current line even less so. But with the perspective of history, it was clearly the right thing. Aston wasn’t going to survive much longer while building 50-100 cars by hand every year on a platform that hadn’t been modern since Goldfinger, but now it’s a profitable icon. Lotus the company and Lotus the brand will be better off too, even if it’s hard to see from here, and even if we real car guys kinda feel that something’s being lost.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Hundreds of Aston Martin fans cared when Astons stopped being 25 years obsolete and started being restyled Jaguars. The Elise and Exige are actually relevant to driving enthusiasts.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    I don’t have issues with Lotus going in a different direction, but I do think they are going too far too fast upmarket. Case in point, the Evora. The Evora is priced competitively with the Porsche Cayman S. Only problem is that it it much less powerful, less refined, has questionable reliability and limited distribution network and significantly less power. The Evora S is priced with the 911 and suffers from the same issues.

    I think it would have been better to sort out the Evora and slowly add models. The Elise is already way overpriced for what it is. It’s replacement will be even more expensive. Lotus cannot afford any mis-steps as it moves upmarket.

  • avatar

    as others have noted, there is a right way and a wrong way to do this. Porsche, and to a lesser degree, Nissan, have found the right way to do this. Yes they shit out logs like the Cayenne, Panamera, and most of the mainstream Nissan lineup. But then they offer us Penance in the form of the 370z, G37, M class, GT-R, and of course the 911 (especially the GT3 and GT2 versions). The counterpoint to this is Toyota and now Honda as well, who excised all hint of performance and excitement from its lineup.

    Then again, I also ask, what is the point of the brand if it loses what makes it special? Whether you kill it due to poor sales or by taking away its soul, it’s still dead. BMW M is an excellent example of this. Have the X5 and X6 M, with their non-bespoke boosted engines, automatic transmissions, track incompatible chassis, and lack of racing heritage, saved the M brand from being discontinued? possibly. But what did we save it for or so it could be? Either way, the cars we fell in love with and respected are gone, whether or not the badge lives on.

  • avatar
    Alexdi

    I thought this was a fine article. Very much enjoyed. I look forward to being that guy with the engine-swap project car.

  • avatar
    Ethan Gaines

    Thank you for taking the time to actually put thought into the industry that all the people who read and comment here love, unlike certain writers on another website I wont waste the time to mention.

  • avatar
    vaujot

    Nice rant. I just doubt that Lotus will succeed as a competitor of Ferrari and Porsche. I do not see that they have the necesary resources in engineering and finances. Meanwhile, Morgan is proof that you can survive as a small player with an iconoclastic product.

  • avatar
    msquare

    I don’t have a problem with what Lotus is doing. As the owner of two MR2 MkI’s and a Miata, I worshipped the Elise from afar and would still love to drive one.

    But at the end of the day, a car is transportation. Driving is fun, track days are fun, but I tend to have a destination in mind when I drive. The MR2 Spyder was absolutely useless as a real-world car because you could barely stow a briefcase in it, and so is the Elise. You can throw a couple of weekend bags in a Miata or an old MR2. Or any Porsche.

    So if Lotus starts building GT cars again (remember the Eclat Excel and the 1970’s Elite?) it’s because that’s what its target market is looking for. I do believe, however, that they shouldn’t stray too far from the Elise DNA, because the weight-saving technologies are what set Lotus apart.

  • avatar
    Adub

    I am excited to see Lotus expand their game and try and make more money any way they can. Harley makes more money selling clothes than bikes.

    Lotus needs to dump Toyota and use Hyundai for their engines. Those engines are more advanced and more powerful, could probably be had for less, and while they don’t have much pedigree, it is not as if Toyota has a great rep.

  • avatar
    thesal

    “The rest of you should grow the fuck up”
    That last line left me wondering if the kettle is calling the pot black.

    Too much hate for an imaginary computer geek/”alleged car lover”. Whatever real point there was behind this article was muddled by all of this.

    PS. Don’t look too hard in parking lots for the connections between affluent owners and their automotive preferences. While regular poor “enthusiasts” may be forced to, the rich ones usually don’t drive their track cars to work.


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