By on July 26, 2012

As you read this, an old friend of mine is probably packing. Who knows, he could already be in the air. He was Volkswagen’s boots on the ground in Malaysia, the many times VW wanted to get its boots on the ground in Malaysia. Last time they tried in 2007, they disrupted Dirk’s retirement and sent him to Kuala Lumpur, where dealers of fake watches greeted him as the old friend he was by that time.  German media says, Volkswagen did not give up and they are trying again.

Volkswagen is said to be talking (again) to Malaysia’s Proton, owned by Malaysian automotive and property conglomerate DRB-HICOM. Now is a good time to buy. Lotus, owned by Proton, has burned through all of a loan facility made available.  DRB-Hicom pumped another $300 million into Lotus this year and is looking at pumping more.  The departure of the flamboyant, but unimportant Dany Bahar from the flamboyant, but unimportant Lotus made bigger headlines than the fact that this is yet another supercar pipedream going up in smoke, but that’s the way it is. Three days ago, it was reported that Proton rejected an offer of one British pound for Lotus. That’s how much the brand is worth now.

Proton, a brainchild of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, was supposed to propel Malaysia as much into the future as its electronics industry. It did not happen. Mitsubishi pulled out a few years ago. Lotus, the maker of lightweight sports cars, was no replacement for a heavyweight international partner. Proton only survived, more or less, due to protectionist laws in Malaysia. In the meantime, Malays begin to rebel against high priced low tech cars. The ASEAN Free Trade Agreement exposes Proton to the increasingly rough winds of competition.

Volkswagen probably would not mind adding yet another brand to its growing collection, especially when it means that they can invest the very important South East Asian market with Volkswagen’s bread and butter cars. Volkswagen already contracted Proton for CKD production of the Passat. Jetta and Polo are planned to follow, says Reuters. Germany’s Manager Magazin said last week that Volkswagen could be interested yet again in Proton. Today, two inside sources told Reuters that Volkswagen might “seek either a minority holding in the owner of UK sports-car manufacturer Lotus or a controlling stake.”

I tried calling my friend in Germany, but nobody is picking up.

 

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30 Comments on “Für Elise: Volkswagen Interested In Lotus And All Of Proton While They are At It...”


  • avatar
    Viquitor

    Lotus sitting under Porsche, producing a new Elise with VAG powertrains and a new Esprit sharing the next-gen R8/Gallardo architecture… That’s no bad news at all.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Will they be able to keep Lotus character w/all that platform sharing? Esp considering Lotus focus on lightness?

      The gulf in weight between the R8 & Evora alone say no to me

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        Yes but, given the choice between the two, most would choose the R8 every time.

      • 0 avatar
        Viquitor

        I sure hope so. But these guys made a Bentley out of a Phaeton, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a new Elise out of the MQB architecture, kind of a stripped-out Audi TT.

        It would take a great deal of intra-group independence for Lotus to keep its lightweight principles and still be worthy of the much needed investments. Maybe the best chance they’ve got is being under Porsche as much as Lamborghini sits under Audi and not Volkswagen itself.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Considering VAG’s complete hatred for real, lightweight sports cars, this can’t be good news for Lotus.

  • avatar
    James2

    I still think Hyundai/Kia should buy Lotus. Everything I’ve read suggest the Koreans still need to learn the nuances of chassis/suspension tuning. Then, find a way to integrate Lotus with Genesis to create a true luxury brand.

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      That would be a brilliant move. They could reduce Lotus costs dramatically, gain a halo sports and supercar, and immediately set Lotus chassis engineers to work on the Korean vehicles.

      Lotus’ EV engineering would also likely come in handy down the road. And Hyundai could probably help out with Lotus’ new engine as well.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      It looks great on paper but there are some cultural issues that would be hard to bridge. Having being to Korea (and Malaysia) I think the Germans are probably the better fit.

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      One big issue: Lotus Cars is a separate entity from Lotus engineering, and I thought they were separately owned. Not to be confused with the Lotus F1 team…

      Serious corporate schitzo with that brand. Kind of a fitting tribute to their founder.

    • 0 avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      Bring back the Kia Elan!

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    “Volkswagen probably would not mind adding yet another brand to its growing collection”

    VW is truly following A. Sloan’s famous dictum: A car for every purse. which should be expanded into: A car for every purse, in absolutely every market, and damn the torpedoes.

    • 0 avatar
      iainthornton

      This has occurred to me. As GM faltered, Volkswagen has adopted the old GM mantra. You can’t blame them, it’s just a shame that GM no longer quite does the same thing.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    You can use pound coins in your penny loafers.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Am I the only one who thinks the Proton marque bears a striking resemblance to the ThunderCats logo?

  • avatar
    dts187

    I’m surprised it’s taken this long for VAG to buy Proton. It always just made sense to me.

  • avatar
    Johnnyangel

    If I were ever to buy a brand-new sports car, which I’ve been thinking about, it would only be from a company that didn’t long ago sell its soul by making SUVs, crossovers, etc. etc., otherwise no way. I was thinking that I could get a Lotus, but not if they fall to VAG.

    I guess that just leaves Ferrari, Mclaren, and Morgan, right? Guess I’ve gotta keep saving …

  • avatar
    The Doctor

    Since Porsches have, like the people who buy them, become dumpy and clumsy, perhaps VW would be happy to keep Lotus as a more track-focused lightweight brand rather than the luxury poser brand that Dany wanted

  • avatar
    DasFast

    I cannot imagine VAG at the helm being healthy for Lotus; a company founded on the concepts of simplicity, efficiency, and driving purity through adding lightness. In it’s modern form, Volkswagen is primarily at the other end of this philosophical spectrum. The Germanization of excess that worked so well with Lamborghini, Bentley and Bugatti is not a fit with Hethel’s ethos.
    I suggest that for a whole roster of reasons Toyota would make a much better, indeed, excellent parent company. I began a bullet pointed list and quickly realized it was resembling another “What I would do with Lotus” diatribe.
    In the interest of sparing Herr Schmitt that particular form of cruelty, I’ll condense my thoughts and submit them if curiosity warrants.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    This evening, Bob Lutz, a former member of the Lotus advisory board, said that ‘no one knows what’s happening.’ (my approximate quote from Autoline Afterhours, where BL chatted about his garage)

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    The only reason I can think of for Volkswagen to buy Proton is to use Proton as a low-cost brand inside the ten nation South East Asian free trade zone, which Malaysia is a member of. That would mean recycled car models from Europe assembled in Malaysia with a badge swap.

    Mind you, Malaysia has kept dragging its feet over allowing truly duty free cars from Thailand and Indonesia, to protect Proton, despite having signed the free trade agreement 20 years ago. Why should Thailand and Indonesia honor the agreement when Malaysia doesn’t?

    Proton is a socialist nationalist car experiment. It is faring as well as government-owned car brands in Britain and Eastern Europe did. It is British Leyland reincarnated. Proton’s low quality cars can only be sold to its captive audience by having the government slap high taxes on foreign cars. Even so, any Malaysian who can afford it would rather pay 50% more for a Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      iainthornton

      The British Leyland analogy doesn’t work. That was a failed company rescued with a government bailout. It’s more similar to Chrysler and GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Viquitor

      I wound’t go that far. All they want is their factories. I don’t think they’ll keep Proton branding unless it’s part of the agreement with the malaysian government.

  • avatar
    GTAm

    I think VW just wants that Malaysian market share. Protons will simply become rebadged, slightly defaced VWs. Lotus another feather in Megalomaniac Piech’s cap? I can see a tiny black dot far on the horizon that’s slowly going to grow into the mother of all brand identity screw ups of all time!

  • avatar
    Tstag

    I think your all missing the really obvious reason for VW to buy Lotus. Lotus had great success with performance versions of Fords and Vauxalls. Think how they could rescue Seat.

    • 0 avatar
      Viquitor

      They wouldn’t go through all this trouble just to rescue Seat. And Lotus Engineering services are there to be used, if that’s the case.

      Seat’d be dead by now if VAG had been successful in their atempt to elbow their way into Alfa Romeo.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    Uncle Ferdinand has Porsche, Audi, Bugatti, Bentley and Lamborghini to ask for advice.


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