New Lotus owners scale back product expansion
New investment promised for UK sports car maker despite only one new car
LONDON -- The new owners of Lotus have scaled back plans to expand the UK sports car brand's product lineup, a source close to the company said.
Malaysian industrial group DRB-Hicom, which acquired Proton, the parent company of Group Lotus, in January, has dropped a "five-year, five-car" plan for Lotus because it does not believe the project is viable, the source told Automotive News Europe.
Lotus will only build one of five concepts unveiled at the 2010 Paris auto show as part of plans by former Lotus CEO Dany Bahar to broaden the appeal of the niche carmaker.
This is likely to be the Esprit mid-engine two-seat sports car, which may be launched in 2014, the source said. Lotus currently builds the Exige, Elise and Evora sports cars.
Bahar, previously Ferrari's head of global sales and marketing, had convinced Proton that the heritage of the tiny sports car maker could be leveraged to expand annual car sales to 10,000 from about 2,000.
Under Bahar's leadership, Lotus had planned new cars such as Esprit, Elite Grand Tourer, Elan sports car and Eterne four-door sedan and a larger Elise, all unveiled in Paris.
DRB-Hicom dismissed Bahar earlier this year, citing unspecified concerns about his conduct.
DRB-Hicom is planning to invest in Lotus, the source said. Earlier this year media reports had said the company wanted to sell the brand.
The company has already put 100 million pounds ($158 million) of its own money into Lotus with the promise of 100 million pounds more next year. "It's their way of saying they are really serious about putting the company back on an even keel," the source said.
Lotus secured a 270 million pound loan from Malaysian banks, which was frozen when DRB-Hicom bought Proton in January. Now the loan money has been unfrozen and the company can apply for the 63 million pounds it has not yet drawn down, according to the source.
Last week, Reuters and German media reports said Volkswagen is considering launching a new bid for Proton to help it tap growing Southeast Asian markets. If VW bought Proton, the German automaker would also control Lotus, along with its successful engineering consultancy business.
VW tried to to buy Proton in 2007. The company did not comment on the reports.
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