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Lotus secure, but model roll-out canned

Blooming Lotus: More spin-offs of the Lotus Exige (S Roadster left), Evora and Elise are expected after a major cash injection into the British sportscar brand.

Financial boost saves Lotus, but five-year model plan scrapped for existing models

24 Jul 2013

THE future of British sportscar maker Lotus now looks secure after its new Malaysian owners this week released a three-year investment program.

However, while the existing model line-up is secure, a planned roll-out of sleek-looking future models appears to be on hold.

DRB-Hicom will reportedly inject an undisclosed sum of money into the struggling brand after already pouring 100 million ($A165 million) into Lotus’s bank account over the past 18 months to keep the business afloat.

Early last year, the Malaysian government sold its 42.7 per cent stake in Lotus’ parent company Proton. Proton has since been taken over by DBR-Hicom, a conglomerate with interests in manufacturing, finance and construction.

DRB-Hicom managing director Tan Sri Mohd Khamil Jamil told Malaysian media Lotus was on the way up again with a plan focussed on expanding the existing model line-up.

“We have cleaned up and we are moving ahead,” he said, suggesting the company has fixed a number of residual financial, marketing and product planning issues left over from Proton’s management of Lotus.

Mr Jamil confirmed Lotus would concentrate on introducing new variants of its existing models including the Exige, Evora and Elise, starting with the Exige S Roadster, due for an Australian debut early next year.

Under the stewardship of former chief Dany Bahar, Lotus unveiled ambitious plans at the 2010 Paris motor show to introduce five all-new models over five years, including reborn Elan and Elite sports coupes, a four-door grand tourer dubbed the Eterne, a tiny City Car and an all-new Elise.

Mr Jamil confirmed the model expansion was shelved, although there is speculation the Esprit project was close to production and may still see the light of day.

A recent rise in Lotus sales reportedly instilled DRB-Hicom with enough confidence to go ahead with the cash injection, with Mr Jamil confirming an increase in production to 40 vehicles a month, with around 85 per cent of those finding homes in export markets.

Lotus has faced a number of financial and management issues in recent years, including sacking Mr Bahar from his chef executive role in June last year after allegations were aired that he misused company funds.

Mr Bahar has since sued DRB-Hicom for wrongful dismissal, but the company maintains he was “dismissed after an investigation into his stewardship of Lotus.” “DRB-Hicom and Lotus will vigorously oppose and/or defend the claim by Bahar, including filing counterclaims against Bahar,” it said.

Lotus’ Australian distribution is managed by private importer Ateco, which also looks after Italian sportscar maker Maserati and a number of Chinese brands including Chery, Great Wall and Foton trucks.

Lotus sales in Australia are up by three per cent in the first half of this year, with the British brand shifting 17 Elise roadsters and 10 four-seat Evoras, while seven buyers have snapped up an Exige two-seat coupe.

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