The Truth About Cars » Dany Bahar http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 06 Aug 2014 16:25:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Dany Bahar http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Project M1-11: The Story Of The Lotus Elise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/project-m1-11-the-story-of-the-lotus-elise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/project-m1-11-the-story-of-the-lotus-elise/#comments Mon, 28 Oct 2013 17:47:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=636545 Michael Banovsky of RM Auctions has been on a MK1 Lotus Elise kick. And why not? Canada’s more relaxed importation laws mean that owning a MK1 is a legal proposition, and the lucky guy has got the resources of one of the world’s best auction houses at his disposal.   Banovsky decided to pass on […]

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Michael Banovsky of RM Auctions has been on a MK1 Lotus Elise kick. And why not? Canada’s more relaxed importation laws mean that owning a MK1 is a legal proposition, and the lucky guy has got the resources of one of the world’s best auction houses at his disposal.

 

Banovsky decided to pass on this documentary, which outlines the history of the Elise’s development in the aftermath of the Elan M100, which saw Lotus eliminated 300 jobs and lose a substantial amount of money. The end result was a monumental sports car that came to define Lotus for the next two decades and served as the unofficial benchmark for the segment.

The doc itself is also a nice look back at a bygone era – there was little concern for scale or volume, the word “brand” is not uttered even once, and there’s only a passing reference to emissions or the environment. The development team is largely concerned with making a car for a “really cool bloke” who might be a Ducati or a mechanical watch. That mentality would never exist today - nor would it be feasible. The current stasis that Lotus finds itself mired in makes it all the more interesting

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Justification for Higher Education, the Erosion of the Enthusiast Market, and Wholesome Whoring http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/justification-for-higher-education-the-erosion-of-the-enthusiast-market-and-wholesome-whoring/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/justification-for-higher-education-the-erosion-of-the-enthusiast-market-and-wholesome-whoring/#comments Tue, 17 Sep 2013 16:10:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=504729   I still remember the day my parents bought me a copy of the iconic Justification for Higher Education poster.  I had been nagging them for a while, and when I finally got the poster, it took immediate pride of place in my childhood bedroom.  Having matured, I recognize now that the imagery depicts a […]

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JUSTIFICATION-1

I still remember the day my parents bought me a copy of the iconic Justification for Higher Education poster.  I had been nagging them for a while, and when I finally got the poster, it took immediate pride of place in my childhood bedroom.  Having matured, I recognize now that the imagery depicts a lifestyle unlikely to be the preserve of the highly educated, but instead that of a lottery winner.  Didn’t matter then, and it doesn’t matter today; the now ratty old poster followed me to college and again to my grown-up domicile.

In retrospect it’s a bit strange that I had the poster in college; residing in the middle of nowhere with no meaningful income, afflicted by terrible weather, and living under the thumb of an overzealous local police force due to strained town-gown relations, it was a bit difficult for me to maintain my passionate appreciation for automobiles during my tenure in Lexington, Virginia.  About halfway through my collegiate career, the majority of which constituted pre-sinecure studies under the auspices of a liberal arts education, I had the opportunity to take an economics elective entitled “Economics of the Automotive Industry.”  Although the professor had an intimidating reputation – an uncanny resemblance to Larry Ellison, a brace of Ivy League degrees, a fearsome ability to decimate GPAs, and remarkable loquaciousness during office hours, ensuring that every visit did indeed last for hours – I decided to take the course anyway.

Besides, I probably already knew everything we’d cover anyway, right?  In a word, no.

I came into the course in the spring of 2009 with an essentially encyclopedic knowledge of every sliver of ink spilled over the past decade in any automotive publication available at Barnes & Noble, and most ones and zeros dedicated to the subject, as well.  I faced a sudden realization that this “knowledge” would be a hindrance rather than a leg up, and that I needed to start thinking critically and reading Automotive News instead of Evo if I wanted to do well in the course.

I learned, begrudgingly, that the car business is just that, a business.  Rather than altruistic benefactors pumping out titillating metal to thrill internet fanboi bench racers who are only occasional purchasers, automakers exist to provide a return on their owners’ invested capital, period.  In the wake of the financial crisis, the business case for vanity projects with a tenuous, at best, connection to the remainder of an OEM’s model line is still somewhat problematic.

In addition to the high visibility, high name recognition manufacturers, the industry – when broadly construed – has tentacles encompassing a major portion of the domestic economy, including suppliers and distributors, with far-reaching labor market consequences.  My classmates and I were forced to confront the conundrum of vertical coordination, the difficulties of product planning given exceptionally lengthy lead and development timelines – not to mention evolving regulatory, safety, and emissions targets – as well as the economies of scale characteristic of a global durable goods industry.

Consider all of these factors in light of dynamic exchange rates and the boom-bust business cycle, and it’s no wonder that automakers seem unconcerned about appeasing the peanut gallery of enthusiasts.  My parents paid lots of money for me to receive this wisdom, but you can acquire it relatively cheaply if you’re willing to learn some basic economics, read a little, and disavow your personal sacred cows – just like this guy; I suppose it may be somewhat difficult to, uh, justify this particular aspect of my education.

The traditionally “enthusiast” manufacturers face even more difficulties; they have the option to adapt, evolve, expand, and grow, with the caveat of potentially enraging the existing, enthusiastic customer base and exposing themselves to more mainstream competition, or they can opt toward stubborn stagnation, arresting forward progress while the proverbial doting family calls the hospice.

Although there are several successful practitioners, the former strategy is exemplified by – of course – Porsche; but for the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad 986 Boxster and 996 911, as well as the Cayenne and Panamera, the company probably wouldn’t exist anymore.  The latter strategy is probably best exhibited by Lotus, whose slow-motion snuff film has recently been protracted once more.  Despite the best efforts of now-deposed CEO Dany Bahar to jump-start the company, broaden the product offerings, and make the Lotus badge a viable economic contender for the 21st century, alleged expense indiscretions left him persona non grata in Hethel.  Now all of his ambitious plans have been scrapped, and Lotus remains a paragon of purity, with plans to produce only sporting, enthusiast-oriented cars for the foreseeable future.  Any perceived moral victories will also be Pyrrhic; nothing fundamental about the company has changed, but the marketplace in which it competes has.

So what can Lotus do?  Can they sell out just a little bit and not compromise the brand’s ideals?  Perhaps Lotus can move toward survival by whoring itself wholesomely while not tarnishing its existing reputation.  The engineering arm of Lotus has enjoyed many associations over the years, some more favorable than others.  Tinkerers as diverse as Hennessey and Tesla have borrowed liberally from Lotus’s chassis cookie jar in recent years, and there is a long list of ordinary cars that sought to import a bit of cachet, touting “Handling by Lotus.”

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To ensure its long-term survival, Lotus has to find a viable business plan somewhere between pinch-hitting for other sports car manufacturers and pimping its name out on  work-a-day sleds.  Best of luck.

A special thanks to Mike Smitka, one of my favorite collegiate professors, for forcing me to examine my hobby dispassionately and rationally.  I am fortunate to have had his guidance in conducting an atypical senior year project, as well as his continued input on my career and my passions as an alumnus.  His musings about the automotive industry and related topics can be found here.

David Walton grew up in the North Georgia mountains before moving to Virginia to study Economics, Classics, and Natural Light at Washington and Lee University.  Post-graduation, he returned to his home state to work in the financial services industry in Atlanta.  A lifelong automotive enthusiast, particular interests include (old) Porsches and sports car racing.

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Automobile Magazine’s Must-Read Essay On The Future Of Lotus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/automobile-magazine-essay-on-lotus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/automobile-magazine-essay-on-lotus/#comments Thu, 01 Nov 2012 17:30:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465611 Ben Oliver’s essay in Automobile Magazine might be the best one I’ve read on Lotus and their existential predicament. While my own pieces are full of vitriol and cursing, Ben’s eloquent prose outlines the brand’s biggest problem; lacking the necessary volumes, they need to take advantage of economies of scale and high margins to survive […]

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Ben Oliver’s essay in Automobile Magazine might be the best one I’ve read on Lotus and their existential predicament. While my own pieces are full of vitriol and cursing, Ben’s eloquent prose outlines the brand’s biggest problem; lacking the necessary volumes, they need to take advantage of economies of scale and high margins to survive as an auto maker. Sports cars that compete in the Porsche Cayman’s price range and performance envelope aren’t popular with buyers nor do they generate the volumes or profits necessary to keep an independent sports car maker afloat. The proposed option, a series of high-end sports cars built off a modular platform (similar to the Lotus-derived Aston Martin VH architecture) was met with little fanfare. The economic principles were sound, but the proposal alienated the faithful. Over to you, Best & Brightest.

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Lotus Owes Suppliers Nearly $37 Million http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/lotus-owes-suppliers-nearly-37-million/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/lotus-owes-suppliers-nearly-37-million/#comments Tue, 09 Oct 2012 17:55:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=463241 A report in The Independent revealed that Lotus owes supplies nearly $37 million and has even asked for tax payment deferments to help manage its cash flow. The Independent paints a picture of parent company DRB-Hicom having to clean up the mess left by the former management team employed by Lotus. “DRB-Hicom, the owner of the […]

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A report in The Independent revealed that Lotus owes supplies nearly $37 million and has even asked for tax payment deferments to help manage its cash flow.

The Independent paints a picture of parent company DRB-Hicom having to clean up the mess left by the former management team employed by Lotus.

“DRB-Hicom, the owner of the Norfolk sports car maker, was not available for comment, but sources close to the company said many of the outstanding issues – including payments to suppliers – relate to the previous management. They added that in some cases DRB-Hicom is challenging some of the arrangements with suppliers over previous contracts where there are concerns over quality control. But they also repeated that DRB remains fully committed to the plant at Hethel, its workforce and turning Lotus around into a self-reliant and global brand.”

The Independent does cite internal financial statements view by the paper as confirming that Lotus does owe the $37 million. The report also listed revenues of $72 million, and overhead costs totaling nearly $56 million.

Irrespective of the direction that Lotus is headed in product-wise, their financial situation is precarious at best. While everyone is out arguing over the heritage and authenticity of the brand, the flimsiness of their balance sheet appears to be something that everyone can agree on.

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This Week In Auto “Journalism”: Reports Of The Esprit’s Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/this-week-in-auto-journalism-reports-of-the-esprits-demise-are-greatly-exaggerated/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/this-week-in-auto-journalism-reports-of-the-esprits-demise-are-greatly-exaggerated/#comments Fri, 05 Oct 2012 15:01:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=462777 With no less than three outlets reporting on the supposed death of the Lotus Esprit yesterday, one could be forgiven in thinking that Lotus was jettisoning the last of the Danny Bahar era and returning back to its roots as a maker of pure, uncompromising sports cars. It turns out that the reputable news outlets that reported […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

With no less than three outlets reporting on the supposed death of the Lotus Esprit yesterday, one could be forgiven in thinking that Lotus was jettisoning the last of the Danny Bahar era and returning back to its roots as a maker of pure, uncompromising sports cars. It turns out that the reputable news outlets that reported on the matter failed to do any fact checking with Lotus. Also, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

The story was disseminated by Romanian auto site AutoEvolution, with just a blurb of text and no citation. Even the greenest auto “journalist” knows that a story like this is great if all you want to do is get clicks for your site utterly worthless. That didn’t stop multiple outlets from running with the story, until Lotus put a stop to the stupidity by releasing a statement clarifying that this is a baseless rumor.

The best part? The blogs in question get to run another story clarifying the matter, and get even more pageviews and clicks. Ain’t the blogosphere grand? Of course, any of the bloggers could have told you that at this point, the development of the car is past the point of no return, and that the need for economies of scale means that the Esprit is going forward and it will underpin everything else in the Lotus pipeline, but that would require industry knowledge that interferes with important tasks like posting pictures of press cars on Facebook.

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Bahar Bites Back, Sues Lotus For $10 Million http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/bahar-bites-back-sues-lotus-for-10-million/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/bahar-bites-back-sues-lotus-for-10-million/#comments Tue, 28 Aug 2012 12:19:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=458105 Dany Bahar, the disgraced former CEO of the money-losing British sportscar maker Lotus, sued Lotus and its Malaysian parent DRB-Hicom for wrongful dismissal. According to Bloomberg, Bahar wants 6.7 million pounds ($10.6 million) from Lotus for alleged unlawful early termination of his employment. The media got wind of the lawsuit after  DRB-Hicom made a filing […]

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Dany Bahar, the disgraced former CEO of the money-losing British sportscar maker Lotus, sued Lotus and its Malaysian parent DRB-Hicom for wrongful dismissal. According to Bloomberg, Bahar wants 6.7 million pounds ($10.6 million) from Lotus for alleged unlawful early termination of his employment. The media got wind of the lawsuit after  DRB-Hicom made a filing at the Kuala Lumpur Bursa.

In the stock exchange filing, DRB-Hicom said that  “Dany Bahar was dismissed after an investigation into his stewardship of Lotus.” No specifics were given.  When Bahar was fired on June 7, “the decision was made by the board of Group Lotus plc following the results of an investigation into a complaint made against him by the company’s penultimate holding company, DRB-HICOM Berhad,” an official statement said.

DRB, controlled by billionaire Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, inherited Lotus  through its purchase of Malaysian carmaker Proton. The “handsome” and “flamboyant” (The Independent) Bahar was hired from Ferrari three year ago.  He was supposed to turn the company around. Instead, it burned through all available cash.

In the business, CEOs and top level executives can afford all kinds of improprieties – as long as they are successful. If they fall from grace, corporate auditors usually find something that otherwise would be overlooked.

According to the filing, DRB and Lotus will file counter-claims.

 

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Dany Bahar’s Lotus Esprit For Sale http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/dany-bahars-lotus-esprit-for-sale/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/dany-bahars-lotus-esprit-for-sale/#comments Fri, 24 Aug 2012 16:21:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457806 Perhaps the final nail in the coffin for the Dany Bahar-era of Lotus; the company is auctioning off his 2003 Esprit, which was restored with a fresh engine, paint job and interior. A Brembo/AP braking system, a center exit exhaust and a bigger spoiler are among the unique touches on this 36,000 mile cream puff. […]

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Perhaps the final nail in the coffin for the Dany Bahar-era of Lotus; the company is auctioning off his 2003 Esprit, which was restored with a fresh engine, paint job and interior. A Brembo/AP braking system, a center exit exhaust and a bigger spoiler are among the unique touches on this 36,000 mile cream puff. For a man with such questionable judgement in business, his taste in cars is quite good.

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Lotus Scales Back New Model Development Amid Bahar Departure http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/lotus-scales-back-new-model-development-amid-bahar-departure/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/lotus-scales-back-new-model-development-amid-bahar-departure/#comments Thu, 26 Jul 2012 16:38:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454343 Lotus’ new owner, Malaysian conglomerate DRB-Hicom, has revised their future model plans, reducing the scale of former CEO Dany Bahar’s ambitious 5-car lineup. According to an investment analyst interviewed by Malaysian media outlet The Star, Lotus will cut back their new model plans from 5 nameplates to 3, but that the strategy was still being […]

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Lotus’ new owner, Malaysian conglomerate DRB-Hicom, has revised their future model plans, reducing the scale of former CEO Dany Bahar’s ambitious 5-car lineup.

According to an investment analyst interviewed by Malaysian media outlet The Star, Lotus will cut back their new model plans from 5 nameplates to 3, but that the strategy was still being worked out. The analyst, working for Malaysian firm RHB Research, met with DRB-Hicom officials to discuss future plans.

According to RHB, there is healthy demand in China for Lotus cars, and the company is producing as many cars as possible based on a single shift work schedule. RHB claims that DRB-Hicom plans to hang on to Lotus, and see through the introduction of new vehicles, based on a common platform. No specifics were given regarding the nature of the vehicles.

 

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Lotus Pulls Out Of Paris Auto Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/lotus-pulls-out-of-paris-auto-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/lotus-pulls-out-of-paris-auto-show/#comments Sun, 15 Jul 2012 18:21:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=452802 Two years after Lotus presented a grandiose, multi-car lineup at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, the company will not be participating in this years festivities at the Porte De Versailles. The absence of Lotus at the Paris show isn’t necessarily a sign of their downfall in the post-Bahar era. Lotus put on a large exhibit […]

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Two years after Lotus presented a grandiose, multi-car lineup at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, the company will not be participating in this years festivities at the Porte De Versailles.

The absence of Lotus at the Paris show isn’t necessarily a sign of their downfall in the post-Bahar era. Lotus put on a large exhibit at the Goodwood Festival of Speed – Britain’s de facto national motor show, now that the London show is gone – with vehicles from their past, present and future.

Lotus is going to be evaluating their direction in the coming months, now that Dany Bahar is gone. The six car lineup may not survive intact, but there are elements worth saving. A resurgence at, say, the Shanghai Auto Show wouldn’t be out of the question.

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Sorry Folks, Dany Bahar Was On The Right Track, Even If You Hated Him http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/sorry-folks-dany-bahar-was-on-the-right-track-even-if-you-hated-him/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/sorry-folks-dany-bahar-was-on-the-right-track-even-if-you-hated-him/#comments Thu, 07 Jun 2012 18:12:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=447919 My biggest fear with the seemingly inevitable departure of Dany Bahar was having to read the contempt and gloating of the automotive media’s self-appointed product and management experts, whereby they claim vindication for shitting on Dany Bahar’s vision to do something about Lotus and their lack of profitability and his desecration of sacred “brand values”. This time […]

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My biggest fear with the seemingly inevitable departure of Dany Bahar was having to read the contempt and gloating of the automotive media’s self-appointed product and management experts, whereby they claim vindication for shitting on Dany Bahar’s vision to do something about Lotus and their lack of profitability and his desecration of sacred “brand values”.

This time last year, I became one of the few people to back Bahar’s plan, and I still stand by it. Conduct aside (and I mean, conduct that is actually questionable, not just being mean to Jalopnik when they asked him asinine questions), Bahar’s plan still makes sense. There’s a large segment of the population that hasn’t yet realized that the locus of profitability has shifted, and tastes in those regions necessitate a different way of thinking. That’s without taking into account that the extremely narrow range of cars sold by Lotus will only appeal to a very small group of wealthy people willing to put up with the sacrifices that come with driving the most pure sports cars in the world.

The Lotus plan involved creating a broader range of cars, including an Esprit that would finally become a real supercar, a next-generation Elise and a much to the horror of car nuts, a sedan – something that Chapman, whose cars grew more cushy and family friendly as he aged – wanted to produce before his death. Lest we forget that the Lotus Cortina and Lotus Carlton were born of utterly mundane stock yet have become automotive legends. Along with the new cars came a plan for greater branding and merchandise, something that has helped line Ferrari’s coffers after being implemented by, you guessed it, Dany Bahar. The Lotus branded gear was also much more tasteful and restrained than the Ferrari/Puma stuff that floods my local Foot Locker discount rack.

I always felt that so much of the hate directed at Bahar and his plan was just personal anger being projected onto him and the clientshe hoped to attract. Bahar was handsome, suave, wealthy and accomplished in many fields; he would be an easy target of hate for your typical scrawny, awkward and impoverished auto journalist, akin to how females can exhibit catty behavior towards their mental or physical superiors. Why else would he be branded an “over-coifed little shit“? Lack of automotive experience never stopped Stephan Winkelmann, Alan Mulally or hell, Soichiro Honda (who loved aircraft and motorcycles more than the automobile).

The other side of it was the resistance to any sort of change that is a deeply human trait not reserved for car guys. The Elise and Exige are sublime cars that are not only brilliant, but potentially affordable on the used market (and when new, cost far less than other exotics). The Lotus plan would move them into a whole other pricing category, but lest we forget that the planned 2015 replacement date would mean that those cars would have been on sale for nearly two decades. Not even the Acura NSX had such a long tenure.

The Lotus of the past had me futilely following my neighbor’s Racing Green Esprit S4 on my 10-speed as he roared down my street. It had me lie through my teeth, using an S2000 press car as a prop, just so I could test drive an Elise. In inspired my to peer through the glass of Gentry Lane Toronto’s workshop and take that picture at 1 AM on a Thursday night. It had me taking an unpopular position, against the grain of everyone else, because I believe so strongly that the brand still has so much to offer that a 4-door sedan and Lotus brand shoes wouldn’t have hurt it at all.

The alternative is a world without Lotus. It’s not that difficult to imagine. When Fiat is handing over development of an icon like the Alfa Spider to a struggling Japanese automaker like Mazda, it’s safe to say that we are not living in the world of Colin Chapman’s Magical Norfolk Workshop where building sports cars at a loss is a viable survival strategy. Whatever you may think of it, Bahar had a vision, and his job was to sell and market that vision. Now that it’s off the table, it’s easy for DRB-Hicom to give up and justify it by refusing to throw good money after bad. Long term thinking and a bold plan is necessary. And it’s got nothing to do with continuing to sell the Elise.

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Dany Bahar Fired Effective Immediately http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/dany-bahar-fired-effective-immediately/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/dany-bahar-fired-effective-immediately/#comments Thu, 07 Jun 2012 17:06:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=447901   Dany Bahar has been dismissed effective immediately by Group Lotus following an investigation into Bahar’s spending practices. “The decision was made by the board of Group Lotus plc following the results of an investigation into a complaint made against him by the company’s penultimate holding company, DRB-HICOM Berhad.” Bahar was under scrutiny for charging […]

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Dany Bahar has been dismissed effective immediately by Group Lotus following an investigation into Bahar’s spending practices.

“The decision was made by the board of Group Lotus plc following the results of an investigation into a complaint made against him by the company’s penultimate holding company, DRB-HICOM Berhad.”

Bahar was under scrutiny for charging home renovations and private aircraft to the company while Lotus was in the red and behind on its loan payments. Of course, excess spending in the corporate world is nothing new, but when you’ve overstayed your welcome, it’s a great way to get yourself canned.

The tragedy is that Bahar’s vision, while ruthlessly mocked, was fairly sound, even if he exhibited questionable conduct as an individual. Lotus needs to appeal to more than just the hairshirt types who buy the Elise and Exige, and their new cars are being well received by the UK media (we won’t be getting the wild Exige S V6 unfortunately). Hopefully DRB-Hicom has someone waiting in the wings that can execute a long-term strategy for Lotus.

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Was DRB-Hicom’s “Due Diligence” The Beginning And The End For Dany Bahar And Lotus? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/was-drb-hicoms-due-diligence-the-beginning-and-the-end-for-dany-bahar-and-lotus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/was-drb-hicoms-due-diligence-the-beginning-and-the-end-for-dany-bahar-and-lotus/#comments Thu, 07 Jun 2012 12:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=447727 Lotus CEO Dany Bahar’s 14 day suspension is set to expire on Monday. We have no idea what will happen next. He may get the boot, taking his ambitious five-year product plan with him. Or he may not. Putting the pieces together since Lotus was taken over by DRB-Hicom has painted an interesting picture, while […]

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Lotus CEO Dany Bahar’s 14 day suspension is set to expire on Monday. We have no idea what will happen next. He may get the boot, taking his ambitious five-year product plan with him. Or he may not. Putting the pieces together since Lotus was taken over by DRB-Hicom has painted an interesting picture, while still leaving the future of Lotus up in the air.

In the end, it turned out that Bahar received his suspension for some spending practices that Lotus and independent auditors found questionable, including renovations to his rented home totaling $54,152, and over $1.5 million in private aircraft fees. According to the Daily Mail, the paper that broke the story, Bahar received compensation worth $1.85 million on top of those perks, while Lotus had an operating loss of $1.5 million in 2011, along with debts of $309 million.

Despite fears of parent company DRB-Hicom (owner of Proton, which in turn owns Lotus) offloading the Lotus brand to the Chinese (a common fear for enthusiasts), it looks like Lotus might be safe under Malaysian stewardship for the near future. DRB-Hicom initiated an independent audit  of the company back in March, following compliance failure for a 2010 loan worth nearly $418 million, which was being guaranteed by Proton. A report in the Malaysian press detailed the issue

In March, Proton, in its third quarter results, noted that its subsidiary was in a technical breach of certain post drawdown covenants on its existing long-term loan. It has requested for an extension of time to fulfil the covenants and has submitted an appeal to the lenders.

For now, the loan amounting to RM1.01bil had been re-classified as a short-term loan as at Dec 31, until the receipt of approval for the extension of time.”

Early March was also the start of Lotus suspending development of the new Esprit, while also putting a hold on Bahar’s five-year plan. Officially, only day to day operations could be carried out under Malaysian takeover laws while DRB-Hicom conducted its due diligence of Lotus, which may have ended up being the audit discussed in the above reports by the Malaysian press. That period was supposed to have wrapped up by the end of March, but in mid-April, Bahar seemed to have no idea regarding the future direction of the company, aside from DRB-Hicom’s indications that they’d hang on to Lotus. But by May, Bahar was in the doghouse just when he claimed that a decision on his plan would be made, and Proton’s managing director and CFO resigned, and the company issued another denial that it had planned to sell Lotus.

The July issue of EVO magazine claims that only 43 new Lotus cars were registered in the UK at the time of publication, with eight cars registered in April, 2012. In 2011, 37 Lotus cars were registered in that month alone. Despite this, Lotus is claiming that the poor sales are a result of a re-jigging of their dealer network, and that they have orders for 1,168 cars in total [Bahar claimed 1162 in an April web interview with EVO].

The tragedy here seems to be that Lotus is on the up-swing in terms of product. The Evora S, Exige S V6 and Elise S have been well-received by the press, and Bahar’s future plans for a new Esprit and an expanded model range looked like they’d be the kind of cars that could expand the appeal of Lotus cars beyond the narrow hard-core enthusiast customer base. If the allegations are true, then Bahar may have become a victim of the kind of hubris and irresponsible behavior that has been the downfall of countless individuals. Let’s see what Monday holds.

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Yup, Dany Bahar Suspended From Lotus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/yup-dany-bahar-suspended-from-lotus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/yup-dany-bahar-suspended-from-lotus/#comments Fri, 25 May 2012 17:13:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=446100 A news story from a UK-based paper in Norfolk confirmed that Dany Bahar was suspended from Lotus following a “complaint about his conduct”. Bahar has been temporarily replaced by represenatives from DRB-Hicom, parent company of Lotus and Proton. The news item is rather vague, and makes no mention of whether Bahar’s conduct involved business practices […]

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A news story from a UK-based paper in Norfolk confirmed that Dany Bahar was suspended from Lotus following a “complaint about his conduct”.

Bahar has been temporarily replaced by represenatives from DRB-Hicom, parent company of Lotus and Proton. The news item is rather vague, and makes no mention of whether Bahar’s conduct involved business practices or something of a…ahem, more personal nature. Automotive blogs across the land are certain to have a field day with this one. But we got the scoop.

Thanks Ronnieand Michael Banovsky for the tips

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Malaysian Blogger Tweets About Dany Bahar’s “Suspension” From Lotus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/malaysian-blogger-tweets-about-dany-bahars-suspension-from-lotus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/malaysian-blogger-tweets-about-dany-bahars-suspension-from-lotus/#comments Fri, 25 May 2012 14:25:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=446074 This is all we’ve got, but we’ll be keeping an eye on things…everyone grab the popcorn.

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This is all we’ve got, but we’ll be keeping an eye on things…everyone grab the popcorn.

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In A World Gone Mad, Lotus Publishes Angry Facebook Screed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/in-a-world-gone-mad-lotus-publishes-angry-facebook-screed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/in-a-world-gone-mad-lotus-publishes-angry-facebook-screed/#comments Wed, 11 Apr 2012 17:15:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=439376 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 […]

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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.

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Lotus And Mansory Team Up In World’s Most Vulgar Alliance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/lotus-and-mansory-team-up-in-worlds-most-vulgar-alliance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/lotus-and-mansory-team-up-in-worlds-most-vulgar-alliance/#comments Tue, 27 Mar 2012 15:25:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=436639 A year ago, I penned a passionate defense of the new direction that was being taken by Lotus. In the piece, I chastised enthusiasts for their armchair criticism of Lotus management and their resistance to bringing out new vehicle to replace the nearly two decade old Elise (which would hit that mark by the time […]

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A year ago, I penned a passionate defense of the new direction that was being taken by Lotus. In the piece, I chastised enthusiasts for their armchair criticism of Lotus management and their resistance to bringing out new vehicle to replace the nearly two decade old Elise (which would hit that mark by the time a replacement rolled around in 2015) and their lack of faith in the stewardship of CEO Dany Bahar, the man who helped Luca di Montezemolo turn Ferrari around. Now it looks like I’ll have to retract those words and admit I was wrong.

Lotus and Mansory, an infamous “styling house” based in Germany are teaming up to produce customized vehicles in a bid to appeal to those with excess wealth and a dearth of taste. Mansory is far from your average aftermarket company. They’ve created some of the most gaudy, offensively brash vehicles crawling the roads of Moscow and Abu Dhabi – and I say this having defended even the Bentley EXP 9F.

For anyone unfamiliar with Mansory’s wares, here’s an example of one of their “customized” Mercedes SLS AMG models.

For the record, I still take issue with the legions of fanboys who decry Lotus abandoning its “brand values”, which are really just made up narratives created by suits to sell cars (and more importantly, merchandise). I still maintain that the new model lineup is important and good for the company, and that the diminishing sales of the Elise and Exige threaten the company with irrelevance of something new isn’t released soon. But the concepts, despite all the criticism weren’t bad cars. They may be derivative, or a bit lacking in panache or worse, used to project your own personal insecurities onto the bespoke-suited Dany Bahar, but they were not offensively tasteless like the Mansory cars are.

This collaboration is a naked ploy to sell cars in emerging markets where flash and wealth are treasured above discretion, taste or ability. While Bentley has diluted their brand by churning out a hundred million Continental GTs, there is still a real mystique with Lotus cars that gives them substantial brand equity (shoot me for using that term). An Evora is a Ferrari for most of the uneducated masses, and an Elise or Exige looks like something extraterrestrial, especially when painted in a signature bright hue like orange.

The 2015 (or whatever year it may be) Esprit would have been enough to stop traffic on its own. Even if it was a pastiche design like the newest McLaren, it looked exotic without being over the top – maybe that was the problem. I still think that the allure of Lotus and the low-slung profile would have been enough to draw the oligarchs and shiekhs to the showroom, but evidently someone in Hethel or Kuala Lumpur didn’t. Lotus cars have always been just the right side of outrageous – a lime green Exige S, the kitschy Esprit Turbos of the 80′s, festooned with gold decals and mesh wheels, the Europa’s bizarre, insect-like styling. But it was always tempered by the Elan, the Elite, the tasteful British Racing Green and yellow badges

That legacy is now gone with the Mansory lineup and cheap tie-ins with third rate rappers (who was once dubbed by a Wu-Tang member as “The Black Adrian Brody”). The press release proudly states how one Mansory collaboration, the Evora GTE “…has already prompted around 250 orders and leads between China and Europe and we expect it to have a very successful future as the top of the range Evora.” I’m not naive enough to think that Lotus should build the Elise in perpetuity and abandon new markets during a volatile economic era. I think change is a good thing. But this is too much change, too fast, in the wrong direction. It makes me fear that this is all just a diversion to distract from the fact that the real meat, the new product, is not going to come out on schedule – or at all.

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Lotus Suspends Development Of New Models Due To Pending Proton Sale http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/lotus-suspends-development-of-new-models-due-to-pending-proton-sale/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/03/lotus-suspends-development-of-new-models-due-to-pending-proton-sale/#comments Tue, 13 Mar 2012 16:49:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=434843 As one of the few people who doesn’t hate the direction Lotus is going in, the news that development of Lotus’ entire lineup has been suspended is disheartening. It seems that the Malaysian government is looking to unload their stake in Proton, parent company of Lotus. Malaysian takeover laws stipulate a three month “lockdown” on […]

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As one of the few people who doesn’t hate the direction Lotus is going in, the news that development of Lotus’ entire lineup has been suspended is disheartening. It seems that the Malaysian government is looking to unload their stake in Proton, parent company of Lotus.

Malaysian takeover laws stipulate a three month “lockdown” on any company that may change hands, ostensibly as part of a “due diligence” period. That means that car production can continue, but Lotus cannot do any real R&D work. CEO Dany Bahar is apparently flying to Kuala Lumpur once a week to keep Proton brass in the loop regarding their five year plan for the British sports car marque.

Bahar told Evo magazine

‘This difficult period for Lotus finishes at the end of March and that’s 
when we will know then whether DRB-Hicom [which owns 49.7 percent of Lotus -ED] will want to continue with our 
business plan,’ Bahar admits, ‘I really hope they will but I cannot call it at the moment, it’s still 50:50.’

While we’ll have to wait until the end of March to find out about DRB-Hicom, it will take even more time to see what happens with the sale of the government’s remaining stake in Proton. The launch of the Esprit will now be pushed back to 2013, while the Exige S and Evora GTE are delayed with no time table specified – Lotus already has 400 orders for the Exige S, and a setback like this is the last thing the company needs. Lotus will continue their motorsports and marketing efforts, with a new company store set to open in June on London’s Regent Street (Bahar, after all, helped Ferrari become the branding and marketing powerhouse it currently is under the tutelage of Luca di Montezemolo).

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Quote Of The Day: The “Authentic” Rolling Chassis Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/quote-of-the-day-the-authentic-rolling-chassis-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/quote-of-the-day-the-authentic-rolling-chassis-edition/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2011 12:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=399474 It’s one thing for a sportscar brand like Lotus to shrug off the self-destructive iconoclasm of its most hard-core “fans,” but it’s quite another thing for its chief executive to take a piss on the entire supercar market while describing the downpour as “authentic, cloud-filtered Alpen raindrops.” To wit, the following bit of nonsense found […]

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It’s one thing for a sportscar brand like Lotus to shrug off the self-destructive iconoclasm of its most hard-core “fans,” but it’s quite another thing for its chief executive to take a piss on the entire supercar market while describing the downpour as “authentic, cloud-filtered Alpen raindrops.” To wit, the following bit of nonsense found at Autocar:

The new Lotus Esprit will offer a more “authentic” driving experience than the Ferrari 458 Italia and McLaren MP4-12C, according to CEO Dany Bahar… Bahar claims the Lotus Esprit will “have the character and emotion” that he says the McLaren lacks. He also revealed that the rolling chassis was now complete and fully running prototypes would be ready by November… Formula 1 KERS-style technology is also expected to feature on the Esprit, but Bahar said such electronic systems would be used only where they add to the driving experience and not as driver aids.

If you can make any sense of this blithering nonsense, or how Bahar came to it based on his impressions of a rolling chassis, you must work in marketing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

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