Thank god for social media. Not only does it subject me to the various armchair CEOs and their plans for the future of Lotus, but it also alerts me to when an unknown Lotus PR wag goes completely off the reservation, and publishes a hate-filled invective on Facebook that looks like an angst-filled letter penned by a 19 year old boy to his ex-girlfriend. And you know what? I like it.
Yes, the letter (and the above photo) is filled with angry sniping, snarky remarks and thinly veiled insults. It’s unprofessional and discourteous. It would never be approved by a corporate PR chair-filled. Did you expect anything less?
A big portion of the letter seems to be devoted to debunking baseless rumors and factually incorrect conjecture – in other words, the foundations of modern “automotive journalism”. Most blogs are, frankly, not concerned with any form of truth. The main goal is, of course, to get you to click on their article by luring you in with an incorrect or sensational headline. Editors hand down decrees that one must be “first” with the story (as if anyone really gives a shit which outlet publishes something 5 seconds before another outlet) and in a rush to meet the deadline, or make money on some draconian pay-per-post or pay-per-pageview payscale, unsubstantiated rumors, poorly researched topics and articles without fact checking get published, and incorrect, even potentially damaging information slips into the public consciousness.
Couple this fact with another element; the entire motoring press seems to be against Lotus with a fervor usually reserved for warring parties in Middle Eastern sectarian conflicts. Some of these reasons are built on sound principles, related to business practices, strength of the product and whatnot. Others, just want to criticize you and attack your CEO as “an over-coiffed little shit” for no other reason than to get more web traffic. Unfortunately for Lotus, some of these dimwits happen to play a role in shaping public opinion. They took the new lineup as an insult to their self-image as the vanguards of automotive purity, and thus lashed out in child-like petulance at Bahar’s attempt to do what all business (yes, car companies are businesses, not public trusts) are supposed to do; turn a profit. Luckily, my self-image is not wrapped up in an automobile brand and their products, so I can see both sides of the issue – and Bertel, Ed and the TTAC crew do not mandate any sort of click bait sensationalism that would put us on this profane path.
How does Lotus fight back? Sending out an email with the real facts will probably be willfully ignored, and nobody will pick up a press release stating the real information either. Why not scorch the earth? There is really nothing to lose at this point. Everyone in the automotive press is against you and not open to hearing your message, no matter how many free cars or lavish trips you’re willing to give away. Publishing something equally sensational, that people will talk about, and bloggers will pile on to, will get you noticed, and conveniently provide a vehicle to get your message out.
Dany Bahar played a good part in turning Ferrari into the profit-turning juggernaut it is today. He’s not stupid, despite what the $30k a year enthusiast club on Twitter would have you believe. I admire the candor that Lotus shows in the release, and this may not turn out to be the beggining of the end for Lotus (what people seem to want), but perhaps a new way for car companies to start combating the poor “journalism” practices – really, nothing more than just the continuous spreading of rumors, poorly-informed opinions or outright falsehoods – and a way to make sure their message gets heard. I’m not saying we’re going to see General Motors go apeshit and do this every time the Volt gets bad press, but why fight an unstoppable monster on its own terms when you can do something subversive, that gets people talking, and lets you take back control of the discourse? Lotus seems to have an innate understanding that most online outlets will publish any crap that will generate ad revenue, no matter how inaccurate it is. Good on them for beating the blogs at their own game.
Press release is below.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story….
Take a little look at what we found online. Don’t you think it’s funny? We do. We had a good old giggle. After all, we love a bit of self irony, just as well really. Although it’s funny, this one’s not accurate but then again, why let the facts get in the way of a good story? The inconvenient truth is – surprise, surprise – we have never said that there are no problems at Lotus.
So whilst lots of people obviously feel the need to comment on Lotus’ current situation in the absence of proper facts or evidence, we can’t ignore these particular mistruths any longer even if we would like to, so we have decided to turn a negative into a positive and use this hilarious piece of ‘art’ to set the record straight regarding the status quo at Group Lotus and try to return a little stability to a fast changing situation.
False rumour #1: Dany Bahar is no longer CEO of Group Lotus.
Fact: Rubbish – Dany Bahar still is.
False rumour #2: Dato’ Sri Syed is no longer Managing Director of Proton.
Fact: Again rubbish. He still is.
You can thank good old Tony Fernandes for these two. Don’t take everything he tweets too seriously – perhaps he’s still frustrated about owning Caterham instead of Lotus and the fact that he fights HRT and Marussia instead of Mercedes and Ferrari in F1.
And whilst we’re on the subject of jokes – do you know the latest F1 joke? Mike Gascoyne, Caterham Group’s Chief Technical Officer, has gone missing. Why? He’s looking for the 30 to 40 points he predicted for the last F1 season. Funny.
Speaking of F1: It seems that one special so called ‘independent’ source is at the root of the lion’s share of damaging rumours and misleading stories. The delightful Joe Saward which leads us nicely to….
False rumour #3: Joe Saward is JUST an independent journalist.
Fact: He is an active Director on the Caterham Group Board.
And unlike some, we don’t want to get too personal, so we’ll leave it to you to judge how ‘independent’ his stories about Lotus are.
False rumour #4: Group Lotus is no longer involved in F1.
Fact: Lotus F1 Team and Group Lotus have reshaped their commercial relationship earlier this year. The new governance agreement signifies the continued commitment of Group Lotus to the team and the sport.
Group Lotus’ branding and marketing rights and subsequent activities remain unaffected by the new agreement until at least 2017. Alongside continued branding and title partnership status, Group Lotus is also the exclusive master licensee for all Lotus F1 Team merchandise.
The new agreement was reached following Group Lotus owners Proton providing team owners Genii with a £30m loan which is repayable within three years. In order to secure the loan Genii used 100% of the F1 team’s assets as collateral meaning that under the conditions of the loan agreement Proton have been given full title guarantee to all plant, machinery, show cars, computers, office and the Lotus F1 Team headquarters.
In addition Proton retains the rights to purchase 10% of the F1 team. Another 10% share option will be activated if the team default on their loan obligations with Proton.
Again we leave it to your judgement how ‘bad’ Lotus’ current situation in F1 is. And speaking of bad situations…..
False rumour #5: Group Lotus is going into administration.
Fact: Rubbish. The takeover of our parent company Proton by DRB-HICOM couldn’t have come at a worse time, but up until that point Proton was (and still remains) fully committed to our five year business plan to create jobs and to expand the factory and business. With the takeover process the funding has been restricted and DRB-HICOM is taking time to understand what to do with the business. DRB-HICOM is currently in the middle of due diligence of Group Lotus and there have been and continue to be positive discussions between Group Lotus senior management and senior management at DRB-HICOM both here in Hethel and in Malaysia. At no point has DRB-HICOM indicated to Group Lotus that it intends to put the company into administration. The over-active rumour mill is seriously damaging our business reputation, image and credibility but it is what it is.
The simple fact is, and we haven’t denied this – Lotus is going through a very difficult phase at the moment but we are showing true fighting spirit every day in trying to keep this vision alive. This is also a fact – no matter what people outside of Lotus may say or tweet or blog.