Despite being business surrounded by a piece of four-wheeled transportation, there is a high range of human emotions involved in the many levels of the auto industry. Competition between companies inspires a love and hate around automobiles bringing out the best as well as the worst of humanity. The same push that can allow motorists to relish the greatest technologies such as quattro all-wheel drive, direct injection and electronic stability control can be devoted to feud with rivals as egos intertwine with the vehicle sheet metal. According to an emotional media release sent out on Wednesday, sports car builder Lotus Cars has been the victim of a smear campaign from a former corporate ally.
Over the past few weeks, publications have followed information sources painting a most dire situation with the Group Lotus. While there have been several factual reports expressing shakiness within the British sports car company (part of which Group Lotus admits as “…going through a very difficult phase at the moment”), some of the information absorbed by media outlets have been inaccurate. Some of the most provocative statements made implied that Lotus was heading towards administration (known as bankruptcy in the United States). There was also mention that the sports car maker’s Chief Executive Officer Dany Bahar and Proton Group’s Managing Director Dato’ Sri Syed were being ousted from Lotus.
In a press release emailed by Lotus, the carmaker denied any truth to rumours that the company was in desperate financial problems or that management changes were taking place. Dismissing the implications as “rubbish”, Lotus also reaffirmed their commitment to the Formula 1 racing after allegations suggested the British brand was leaving the sport. Combating the negative press information about Group Lotus, principals involved in the auto company’s recent history in Formula 1 is being targeted as the sources of potentially demeaning comments to press.
In 2010, Lotus Racing was founded as one of the three new Formula 1 teams accepted into the sport. Group Lotus had little authority over Lotus Racing (operated under Team Principal Tony Fernandes and Chief Technical Officer Mike Gascoyne) but allowed the Malaysian-derived racing organization to use the company’s branding. At the end of the debut season, Group Lotus decided to partner with a separate Formula 1 team becoming a stakeholder in the Renault F1 organization. Through the late months of 2010 in the Formula 1 paddock, rumours that Group Lotus and Lotus Racing were on bad cooperative terms became apparent. With the formation of Lotus Renault GP for the 2011 season, there were two Lotus teams under the protest of Group Lotus. Group Lotus took Lotus Racing to court in early 2011 with the intent to disassociate their previous agreement. The results of the litigation favoured the Fernandes and Gascoyne race team (operating as Team Lotus in 2011). Team Lotus became Caterham Racing this year after Tony Fernandes purchased a small sports car builder (ironically building vehicles based on Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s renowned Seven design).
Despite the Formula 1 naming spat appearing over, both parties continue to be unfriendly towards each other. Group Lotus implies much of the exaggerations on their sports car business struggles were the result of a so-called “independent” source Joe Saward. Saward is in fact a non-executive director of the Caterham Car Group Limited who has been posting blogs on Formula 1 new including the situation with Lotus. Reading Saward’s April 10th posting titled “Worrying noises about Group Lotus” gave somewhat of a ‘Dooms Day’ scenario for the company. Group Lotus has laid question to Joe Saward’s journalism credentials for commenting on the Lotus F1 Team’s parent company. In an April 12th to refute criticism levelled against him, Saward posted details of his relationship with Caterham Cars is not directly related to the Formula 1 team. In part of his most recent post, Saward defended, “I did not say that production had been halted and I did not say that the company is in administration. How then can I be responsible for these rumours? What I did do was to examine the possible alternatives available to DRB-Hicom. That is all.”
As the Lotus sports car brand attempts to surge into a modern automotive success story similar to that of Aston Martin, followers of the company are eagerly awaiting the production of their all-new line-up featuring the return of the Esprit and their entrance into four-door coupe motoring called the Eterne. The approach to this Lotus’ future of optimism will require the sports car company to endure continuing uneasy and even some doubt. Fighting with passion for the British brand, there should be a sense of eagerness to see to Lotus brand again receiving focus for fine vehicles.
Information source: Group Lotus, Joesaward.wordpress.com
Photo source: Chris Nagy