New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman recently sat down with Dany Bahar to discuss the Lotus's new direction. It got a little ugly.
AM: I'm a big fan of Lotus . . .
DB: So then this must be a shock for you?
AM: Well, yeah. And I have to say I'm not entirely sure I'm down with the program. I'm concerned, frankly, about how heavy the new cars are going to be. I can sort of understand the business reasoning, which is probably not unlike Colin Chapman's own in the 1970s when he went upmarket with the Esprit and the Elite.
DB: So you mean what Chapman did in the '70s and '80s was wrong? When did Lotus have its greatest success when it comes to image, perception, to being a real sports car manufacturer -- when was that? Certainly not now. I think it was at the time when Chapman tried to sell Elites and Esprits.
AM: They didn't work out.
DB: But does it mean that twenty-five years later it has to turn out the same way commercially?
AM: No, it doesn't, although I would say that the company's image was built with things like the Elan, and the Elise was a car that went all the way back to the core value.
DB: The core value of who?
AM: Of Lotus, the brand. What the brand stood for was lightness.
DB: Was that the Esprit with the 1300 kilogram [curb weight]? So you think that was wrong? The Elite with 1290 kilos, that was wrong?
AM: I would say that I'm resistant, I want to be persuaded, I hope I'm wrong. I know from speaking to other journalists that there has been just a massive sigh of disbelief about all these new cars.
DB: A massive, say again, a massive?
AM: Sigh of disbelief, yes. People go, "Well, they don't really mean that, you know, they're not really going to build that, they're just raising money."
DB: The press feedback after Paris was huge, and I believe the negative part of this was less than ten percent.
AM: You probably saw more than I did, and I would probably hear the negative part more than the
DB: Yeah, because you are part of this enthusiast group that see Lotus in a certain way, and I don't agree with that.