Interview: Lotus CEO Dany Bahar

AM: Well, what is your vision?
DB: I think I've read more than 1000 of Colin Chapman's documents from the early '60s and '70s [regarding] motor racing, but also road cars, and his vision about Lotus was very clear. And it's not the Lotus that most people see to be the real Lotus vision. I think the biggest issue we are fighting is that people in the last fifteen years just see a mono-product company, and the projection of that product into the brand has been, let's say, seamless, and they believe every car that Lotus should bring out has to be the same as the Elise, which I think is wrong. I haven't read one single sentence or paragraph in all the thousands of documents that I've seen personally from Colin Chapman that says the car cannot be longer than three meters and 80 centimeters, cannot be heavier than 1000 kilograms, cannot have the engine in front, not once.

AM: That's a fair point. But Chapman wasn't a saint, or always right, either.
DB: He was the founder.

AM: He was the founder and he was a type of genius, but he was not above being wrong.
DB: And commercially, it was a disaster. All the cars that I mentioned to you that actually made the company famous, they failed. Our approach is if we can try to combine what made this company famous, that sort of positioning of the product, plus if we have the ability to make it commercially viable, I think that's a success. This is what Mr. Chapman wanted to do. Cheap cars did not pay his bills. And it's still the fact today -- the cheap cars do not pay the bills, that's the problem we have. That's why the company, the last fifteen years, wasn't moneymaking, it's very simple.

AM: Do your corporate parents at Proton want to get more outside money in?
DB: Absolutely. Outside money is already in, it's already committed. The number [€490 million, or about $750 million] is not a secret because Proton is a listed company on the Malaysian stock exchange, all the money that goes somewhere, their subsidiaries, are transparent. Our financing for the new models is already finished . . . [We] couldn't do Paris if [we] didn't have the financing already-a combination of Proton putting in equity and banks loans-this would be fooling the people, and it would actually put ourselves at huge risk. All the people that have joined [the recently announced twenty-three-person executive team]-these are heavy, heavy heavyweights from the sports car industry, with huge jobs, known in the sports car industry-wouldn't have joined us in the first place if they didn't know the financing was there.

AM: So it's got to work.
DB: It's like giving the company another last chance, so either we go down in glory or we really make it.
Marketing is, basically, mythology. For Lotus, simplicity and lightweight were myths faced to marketing trends of the 90sViewing things realistically, Lotus 56, 63, 77, wingcars 78, 79 and 80, twin chassis 88, esprit within active suspension, etc., were neither light nor simpleLotus is smart engineering, innovation and sophistication (that eventually can be light and simple)But brand myths have to be supported by icons. Lotus icons are Seven and Elise. They lost the first, should not afford to lose the second. Is the Mini, the 911, the Cinquecento of Hethel.Interesting interview. Saluti!

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