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Are Lotus’ Ambitious Expansion Plans Doomed?

Are Lotus’ Ambitious Expansion Plans Doomed?

When Lotus unveiled its five-car strong ambitious expansion plans back at the 2010 Paris Motor Show the automotive world certainly took notice.

When the firm then employed Dany Bahar, Ferrari’s ex-branding guru, as CEO, shortly followed by 458 Italia and 430 Scuderia designer Donato Coco to help pen the Norfolk firm’s latest efforts, the plans suddenly acquired a deal more gravitas.

But now it looks as though the hard work put in by Bahar and all at Lotus could be in serious jeopardy as the lightweight sportscar manufacturer’s parent company, Malaysian state-owned firm Proton, is put up for sale.

The Malaysian government has owned a majority share in the automaker since its inception in 1983, but now the government is looking to flog its chunk of the company.

The value of Proton stock rose by five per cent in December last year with speculation the centrally-owned company could be moved on to private hands.

But what does that mean for Lotus? Well, investment experts believe that the successful bidder will more than likely divest the Malaysian manufacturer’s 65 per cent stake in the British sportscar firm in order to release some capital to secure the future of Proton in Malaysia.

The automaker is under threat in its home country recording a 76 per cent drop in profits in the last quarter. The firm’s market share has also dropped considerably over the last decade – in 2002 Proton held a market share of 60 per cent in Malaysia seeing that halved to 30 per cent over a three year period to 2005.

If the company were to sell its holding in Lotus Group International it would spell the end of the credit line Lotus CEO Bahar has been relying on to develop the firm’s all-new five-car model line-up, complete with a clean-sheet in-house design for a new 4.8-litre V8 set to power the luxury Eterne and Esprit supercar.

It’s reported the Norfolk-based firm needs another half a billion pounds to bring its ambitious expansion plans to market but the company itself is only valued at an estimated £200 million – and that’s on the proviso that Bahar’s master plan succeeds.

So, what is the future for Lotus? Well rumour has it that Chinese auto giant Shanghai Automotive – which already has a partnership with premium European brand, VW – and venture capital firm Genii Capital have approached the Malaysian government about taking the helm at Lotus.

However, the Lotus-Proton situation pans out, we just hope that the automotive industry doesn’t have another Saab saga on its hands and that the company’s grand expansion goals don’t cripple it.

We want to see those five new Lotus’ sometime soon.

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bG9nZ2VyX0xvZ28uanBnIjtpOjI7czo3MzoiaHR0cDovL21vdG9yYmxvZ2dlci5jby51ay93cC1jb250ZW50L3dvb191cGxvYWRzLzMtTW90b3JfQmxvZ2dlcl9Mb2dvLnBuZyI7fTwvbGk+PGxpPjxzdHJvbmc+d29vX3ZpZGVvX2NhdGVnb3J5PC9zdHJvbmc+IC0gQXV0byBOZXdzPC9saT48L3VsPg==