With Proton Under New Ownership, Lotus Seeks A Buyer

Since the Paris Auto Show in 2010, Lotus has been talking up big plans. It is part of a plan by Chief Executive Officer Dany Bahar to make the company profitable. For years, Lotus has been owned by Malaysian company Proton, and during that time it has never turned a profit.

The Lotus name is recognized though, so there is value there. Proton tasked Bahar with coming up with a comprehensive plan to make the company viable. Bahar knew Lotus wouldn’t be able to lean on Proton forever, and introduced five new concept models at the Paris Auto Show.

Bob Lutz was brought on to advise the company, and he saw it as the only viable way forward. No doubt it is a huge undertaking though, and one that requires a very significant investment.

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Now, Bahar is said to be looking for a buyer or investment partner that will let Lotus’ development plans continue unimpeded. The need to find a new owner has taken on a greater degree of importance after the Malaysian government sold its ownership stake in Proton to DRB-Hicom. DRB Hicom is unlikely to want to fund Lotus’ development program through to fruition. Auto Express reports that Dahar needs an investment partner willing to put up around $790 million (at current exchange rates). That isn’t chump change! Investors are especially hesitant with the topsy turvy economy and ongoing financial crisis in Europe.

So far Lotus hasn’t found the right partner, but Chinese companies (of course) are said to be interested, along with the owner of the Lotus Formula One team, Genii Capital. Hopefully someone will come along and see Lotus’ grand plans into reality. It will be a lot to digest for any new buyer. The best scenario would be a large, established manufacturer taking over – such as Toyota. Despite Toyota’s need to get its performance mojo, we don’t foresee anything like that happening.