Editorial – Is a Lotus SUV the worst thing in the world?

Possibly the biggest bit of news in the automotive media this week, is the story that Lotus plans to build an SUV model. In China. Some enthusiasts are up in arms about it, but does it really matter?

Jean-Marc Gales - Lotus Group CEO

There seems to be two distinctive camps in the Lotus SUV debate. On one hand are the die-hard purists, who believe the Norfolk firm should produce nothing but lightweight sports cars, embodying the principles of founder Colin Chapman. On the other hand are those who accept Lotus needs to diversify in order to survive. Are the two concepts mutually exclusive, or is it possible to have your cake and eat it?

Add Elise body here. Or maybe something practical?

Add Elise body here. Or maybe something more practical?

Porsche is the prime example of a sporty marque that has made the SUV idea work. It seems quite hard to believe that it’s 13 years since the introduction of the original Cayenne, a vehicle now into its second generation of production. There are entire generations of children out there who could believe Porsche have always made 4x4s. The Cayenne was of course joined by the smaller Macan last year, which is actually more crossover than full-fat SUV.

Has this destroyed the Porsche brand? The fact the Cayman GT4 sold out almost instantly would suggest not. That the interest around the 911 GT3 RS bordered on insane would also counter that argument, too. Oh, and that Porsche delivered 51,100 new cars in January to March this year alone, with a revenue of €5.08 billion, pretty much knocks the dissenters out of the water. Compared to a company 15 years ago that was stuck with just two cars – 911 and Boxster – and an uncertain future, Porsche is now a huge success story. SUV models like the Macan are credited with this; the brand would never have survived just making sports cars with engines in the wrong place. (more…)

Lotus Suspends Dany Bahar

Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar has been “suspended” from his position, a decision undertaken by parent company DRB Hicom.

No real details as to the reasoning behind this decision have been released, but Bahar’s “ambitious” aim of six new products by 2015 must play a significant part.

Whilst some car magazines were happy to trumpet the new models as a real, genuine proposition, ESM was cynical. Given that Lotus is a relatively small specialist manufacturer, producing and developing so many new models would always be a mammoth task. To be honest, not even huge car-makers would take on such a project lightly.

Along with this, Bahar has overseen the expensive (£20) Lotus lifestyle magazine, in addition to the collaboration with rapper Swizz Beatz. Whilst I can see the aim of taking Lotus upmarket – the high-end players will always have money – this is not the right brand.

Colin Chapman founded Lotus to make lightweight and technically advanced performance cars. Churning out a product range to rival Porsche head-on moves far away from that principle. Chapman did new and exciting; Bahar seemed obsessed with generic and profitable. I’m sure Colin would be turning in his grave.

The final straw must surely have come with that horrendous press release. Bahar looked like a mad man and made Lotus a laughing stock. That misjudged media message must be reason enough to oust him.

ESM hopes Lotus can survive and be sustainable; it is too big a name to lose. But it should look at innovative new products, and stick to its core values.

EngageSportMode has returned

Whole numbers of people have noticed a distinct lack of posting on these here pages as of late. To try to address this issue, ESM has prepared a press release to deal with the questions asked. As a template I’ve used the recent example set by Group Lotus. Behold:

False rumour #1:Mr John is no longer CEO of EngageSportMode.
Fact: Rubbish – He’s never been CEO, nobody is.

False rumour #2: Dato’ Sri Syed is no longer Managing Director of Proton.
Fact: ESM doesn’t really know to be honest. We lost interest in Proton years ago when they stopped making the GTi. Try Wikipedia?

False rumour #3: Mr John is JUST an independent journalist.
Fact: Independent journalist is probably pushing it. Guy with a website/blog is probably more accurate really.

False rumour #4: EngageSportMode is no longer involved in F1.
Fact: ESM has watched every race this season. Granted ESM didn’t watch China live, but that’s only because it was nursing a hellish hangover from being out in Covent Garden until 4am. ESM watched the “controversial” race in Bahrain today also, so there.

False rumour #5: EngageSportMode is going into administration.
Fact: Rubbish. ESM paid it’s WordPress fees for a full year back in January.

Breathe, and return to normality. I realise the whole Lotus meltdown press release was a couple of weeks ago now, but I’d been desperately wanting to mention it here on ESM. In all my years of watching the motor industry I don’t think I have ever seen such a hideous media message since the publicity photos for the Ssangyong Rodius.

In all seriousness, I realise I have become somewhat distracted from posting on this blog. Ironically, a lot of that has been due to personal car buying and selling, details of which shall be provided over the next few days. But be in no doubt that ESM is still here, and there certainly wasn’t an incident which involved forgetting passwords.