Lotus Group CEO Bahar suspended
Dany Bahar, the chief executive with ambitious plans for British-based sports car maker Lotus, has been suspended by the new Malaysian owners of Group Lotus.
Group Lotus said the move followed an operational review with Bahar temporarily suspended from his role "to facilitate an investigation into a complaint about his conduct" made by DRB-Hicom.
The move adds to uncertainty about the future of the niche car maker. DRB-Hicom has denied reports that consultancy firm KPMG has been hired to sell Lotus to a Chinese buyer.
A DRB-Hicom spokesman said it was business as usual at the Lotus headquarters in eastern England, where more than 1,000 workers are employed.
In Bahar's absence, three representatives of Lotus' parent companies have been authorized by the Lotus board to manage the group, DRB-Hicom said on Friday.
Bahar, a former Ferrari sales chief, joined Lotus in 2009 with ambitious plans to launch new products and quadruple annual car sales to 8,000.
A decision whether to sell the money-losing unit may hinge on the outcome of the investigation, according to RHB Capital.
"Dany Bahar was the key player behind the turnaround plan for Lotus," said Alexander Chia, an analyst at RHB Capital. "If he is cleared, it would indicate that the management is happy to continue bankrolling Lotus. If he ends up out, there will be a lot of uncertainty on where Lotus goes from here."
DRB-Hicom bought Proton, the Malaysian parent company of Group Lotus, in January. Proton, a maker of sedans and taxis, bought control of Lotus in 1996, but has never made a profit from the British unit.
Before Proton, Lotus's owners included General Motors. Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. has denied it is interested in buying Lotus.
Reuters and Bloomberg contributed to this report