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Friday 6th July 2012

Lotus: Dead weight lifted or dead man walking?

We investigate whether Lotus is back on track in the post-Bahar era

FoS sculpture was well received
FoS sculpture was well received
On the face of it, life seems to be looking up for Lotus after the sacking of boss Dany Bahar at the beginning of June.

Evora hybrid seems promising
Evora hybrid seems promising
The list of recent positives is long, starting with an excellent showing at Goodwood. Lotus was the featured marque and put in a mighty effort to impress the punters. The sculpture was lauded as one of the best in recent memory and the display of golden oldie race machinery up the hill impressive. The wonderfully bizarre door-stop Type 58 racer from 1968 stuck in the mind.

Then the company this week opened the doors on its flagship Regent St merchandising store in London. A £333 car coat might not be high on your shopping list, but the kit is mainly stylish and the shop well appointed. Let's not forget that Ferrari makes around a quarter of its profit from its stores.

The racing is going great guns, meanwhile. It might be mostly in name only, but when the Lotus F1 team is now regularly making the podium and currently sits third in the championship ahead of Ferrari, it's got to have a positive effect on the global perception of the company.

Racing heritage isn't translating into sales
Racing heritage isn't translating into sales
Lotus Engineering, a mostly separate entity to Lotus Cars, is also still deep-thinking its way to solutions to benefit both Lotus and its worldwide customers, most recently reaching the track testing phase for the Evora plug-in hybrid.

This is the car that's promised to accelerate faster to 60mph than the much-praised supercharged S but record just 55g/km of CO2 (around 120mpg).

So all this must be having a terrific effect on sales, right? Er no. Up to the end of June this year, Lotus had sold just 82 cars in the UK. That's down from 218 the year before, a fall of over 200 per cent. Even Saab sold more than that, and it's been defunct since December.

So what's the problem? We put that question to Lotus, who then sent it all the way to new owners DRB-Hicom in Malaysia, who declined to comment.

...but new branded store could help coffers
...but new branded store could help coffers
Given that Lotus would usually answer this themselves, it demonstrates just how much DRB-Hicom want to take control of the day-to-day stuff. Understandable when all the publicity outlay for expensive hobbies like racing hasn't translated into sales, and in fact seems to have done the opposite.

Let's hope the Evora convertible, expected to be revealed in a month or so, can go some way to halting the decline.

Author: NickGibbs

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