Group Lotus is on shaky ground as its comprehensive five-year product revival plan may be thrown out if rumors are true that new owner Proton is selling its assets to China Youngman. It’s believed that Proton is considering strategies that may put the sports car company into administration so that it could be freed from accumulated debts amounting to about £200 million.
Recently, Malaysian-based DRB-Hicom bought Proton. DRB-Hicom officials don’t agree with Proton that Lotus is a valuable asset and would then have to be kept and developed. When the acquisition process was ongoing, Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said during an Autocar interview that the company has to make the change to conserving cash until the passing of a 60-day transitional phase as required by Malaysian law.
To build an all-new model range, Lotus has been spending pre-arranged loan funds. The acquisition was completed several weeks ago but Lotus doesn’t have a solid financial plan yet and Bahar is “on leave” this week. There are speculations from the media, which include F1 reporter Joe Saward, that Group Lotus will be sold off to China Youngman. Since 2006, this has served as Lotus’s importer in China.
This company already makes its own “Engineered by Lotus” cars for sale in the region with the use of Proton running gear. Youngman doesn’t need convincing about the value of established European brands in growing markets. Youngman had submitted a bid for Saab after its demise in 2011. It’s also rumored that there are ongoing negotiations with other Chinese automakers.
Lotus’ future has become the hot topic since last week when the sponsorship deal between the Lotus F1 team (formerly Lotus-Renault) and Group Lotus was terminated and it became known that a five-year contract with Lotus’s owners was struck to continue using its name. This fueled rumors that private investment group Genii, the owner of the F1 team, may soon submit a bid for the car company. So far, the principal Gerard Lopez has made no disclosures about the plan.