Auto blogTue, 30 Oct 2012 18:20:00 EST
This has been a tumultuous year for Lotus - to say the least - from the company being sold off back in January to its CEO Dany Bahar being fired in June to its questionable financial status and rumors of the British automaker being sold off to another automaker. First, we heard that Volkswagen was interested in acquiring Lotus and parent company Proton, a rumor that was later dismissed. Now Automobile is reporting that fellow Brit Aston Martin could be in the market to work with or possibly even merge with Lotus.
While this is pure speculation at this point, such a venture could prove to be beneficial for both independent companies. That's because with Lotus focused on lightweight, relatively affordable sports cars and Aston Martin producing high-end performance cars, there is virtually no product overlap between the companies. The article suggests that a person or company wanting to merge these two automakers would have to raise between $1.1 billion and $1.6 billion in order to make a go of it, however.
We're not sure what to think of this latest rumor, but anything that can help get the struggling brand back to health at least has our interest.
A pair of head-turning high performance cars are catching some attention off a different kind, in the form of safety recalls. Aston Martin and Lotus have issued recalls for the V12 Vantage Coupe and Evora, respectively.
Aston Martin's affects 169 examples of the 2009-2012 V12 Vantage Coupe. It concerns the tire-pressure monitoring system, and is less a malfunction than it is a compliance issue. The TPMS does not alert the driver until the front tire is more than 25 percent below the recommended cold tire pressure. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 138 states that the alarm must sound when tire pressure is "equal to or less than either the pressure 25 percent below" the recommended cold inflation pressure. To address the issue, Aston Martin will notify owners and reprogram the software, free of charge.
As for Lotus, 80 supercharged Evoras have been recalled, all built between February and September, 2011. The problem involves an engine-mounted oil feed pipe, which could rupture, causing loss of engine oil or a possible fire if the oil sprays onto a hot engine.
Two years ago, we were gobsmacked when humble Lotus shocked the automotive world by wheeling out no fewer than five new models - admittedly in various stages of development - at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. The ambitious onslaught of new sheetmetal came at the behest of then-CEO Danny Bahar who aimed to broaden the British marque's appeal by dramatically expanding its portfolio. Bahar was later thrown out by new Malaysian owners DRB-Hicom in a management shakeup that seems to still be, well, shaking out. Bahar was deposed over accusations of financial wrongdoing and the controversial executive has fired back with a $10.6M lawsuit.
Against this chaotic background, a cornerstone of Lotus' revival plans hinged on the rebirth of its Esprit supercar (shown in 2010 concept form above). According to new reports, however, the Esprit has been cancelled, a victim of the company's uncertain finances and direction. Depending on which rumor you choose to believe, the two-seat coupe was slated to receive a house-built V8 and possibly turbocharging or hybrid power. That may all be moot now, however, as DRB-Hicom is reported to have scrapped Bahar's plans wholesale, a development that apparently includes killing off the mid-engined Esprit, too.
UPDATE: And this, friends, is why we have this story with a question mark and a Rumormill tag - Lotus is denying that the Esprit has been killed off.
File this one under "not surprising in the least." Fired Lotus CEO Dany Bahar is reportedly suing his former employers for some $10.6 million, claiming that the automaker and its Malaysian owner, DRB, broke the law when they dismissed him. According to a report by Bloomberg Businessweek, DRB and Lotus will defend themselves in court rather than settling, including filing a countersuit against the former top executive.
Bahar, 40, was canned on June 7, about two weeks after Lotus suspended him pending an investigation into his conduct. The report cites a Kuala Lumpur stock exchange filing as its source of the information; the filing also indicates that DRB has decided against selling Lotus, despite continuing losses.
The Lotus Exige is once of the most focused race cars that you can purchase on the market today, but for those individuals who desire to track the mid-engined racer, Lotus has released its latest no-frills, all-go racecar: the Exige V6 Cup.
The Exige Cup features a supercharged 3.5-liter V6 making 346 horsepower, enabling the 2,380-pound race car to get from zero to 62 mph in just 3.8 seconds. Power is put to the road with the help of Lotus Dynamic Performance Management, which allows for Touring, Sport and Race settings for the engine.
The Exige V6 Cup also features revised aerodynamics in the front fascia and rear diffuser, and it rides on a fully adjustable suspension that reaches the road with special wheels wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero Trofeo tires.
As with one of those blockbuster three-team NBA trades that actually improves the fortunes of every team involved, a report in Autocar indicates that Renault, Infiniti and Lotus are in talks that could benefit both manufacturers and enthusiasts. Renault is considering a production version of the devil-in-blue Alpine A110-50 concept but has said that it "probably needs more than the Renault-Nissan Alliance on its own." Enter Lotus, whose Evora platform could supply the running bits for the mid-engined Alpine revival.
That same Evora platform, in range-extended 414E concept form, is the basis for the Infiniti Emerg-E concept. Even though a decision hasn't been made on the Emerg-E's production, it is still being developed and the company has admitted that it "could be built in Britain." For its part, Lotus has said that it's ahead of schedule on the Evora 414E, with its 408 horsepower, 738 pound-feet of torque and 30-mile electric range. Development funds from both Renault and Infiniti could help make all three cars a closer possibility.
The Lotus Evora S IPS that the company showed drifting all around its test track earlier this year will be available in October, says Car and Driver. The kinder, gentler Lotus is fitted with the six-speed Intelligent Precision Shift transmission, an Aisin unit swiped from the Toyota Camry and retuned with Lotus electronics and actuators.
There are two 'regular' modes and two 'sport' modes on the IPS gearbox. The former include a traditional hands-off automatic and an auto mode with shifts handled by wheel-mounted paddles. The latter are a sport automatic setting that sharpens the car's responses and a manual sport mode for total driver control. The Evora S IPS hits showrooms in October. For now, you can take a look at Lotus' test driver giving it the beans in the video below.
The Lotus Evora has taken many forms as a race car over the past few years, starting in 2009 with the Type 124 Endurance Racer built for the FIA GT. Since then, Lotus has developed a GT4 Cup version designed for a one-make series, the Evora GTE that currently competes in the GT class of the ALMS and the recently introduced Evora GTC.
Now, Lotus has released the Evora GX, a variation of the GTC tweaked to specifically meet the requirements of Grand-Am's new GX class that will launch at the start of the 2013 race season. While the two cars are very similar, using the same lightweight carbon fiber and plexiglass bodywork, the GX version gets a thicker U.S.-spec roll cage, a revised front splitter and bumper, a standard Grand-Am rear wing, yellow headlights and a new fuel filler system. ABS and traction control have also been removed per Grand-Am regulations.
Pricing for the Evora GX is listed at $335,000 with each one built to order, and one customer has already taken the plunge. McMahon Raceworks has placed an order and should have the car on the starting grid at the first race next year.
Let's say you're an automaker bent on world domination looking to grow your sales. That's going to have you looking at Asian markets, because that's where some of the biggest growth has been, and that's exactly what Volkswagen is doing as it considers making another run at Malaysia's Proton.
Reuters reports that Volkswagen is interested in at least a partial stake, if not a controlling interest in Lotus-parent Proton as a way to continue a production presence in the region without having to build its own factory.
Volkswagen already builds the Passat in a DRB-HICOM facility in Pekan, Malaysia, and plans are in place to build the Jetta and Polo there, as well. With both southeast Asia and its relationship with Proton figuring so importantly in Volkswagen's plans for expansion, buying into Proton can help ensure stability. Volkswagen is being tight-lipped about the whole idea, but CEO Martin Winterkorn did recently say, "it's our clear goal to continue the successful (expansion) course of past years with great dynamics and stability," which sounds an awful lot like deals are on the table to smooth the path to further growth.
This didn't take long. The new overlords at Lotus have reportedly scrapped the company's five-year plan. DRB-Hicom ditched the turnaround strategy, penned by ousted CEO Danny Bahar, because it believes the market viewed the plan as overly ambitious.
The new product plan will slim the number of new model lines from five to three, and Lotus will likely slash the number planned consultants in favor of relying more heavily on in-house talent. According to The Star, the move should help expedite product development and save cash at the same time.
Even so, nothing is written in stone as of yet. DRB-Hicom says the new plan will take up to a year to finalize. The company has dumped around $242 million into Lotus so far this year, and the struggling automaker may require another $121 million by 2013. Lotus all but stopped production earlier this year during a loan freeze, but the lights came back on in April. The company now produces around 44 vehicles per week.