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Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Lotus Is Going Down The Crapper

Mansory Evora...
At the Paris Motor Show last year, Lotus unveiled that it was to have a new beginning. A fresh start. A makeover... one where they aren't Lotus at all.

As any car fan will tell you, Lotus founder and utter genius Colin Chapman (R.I.P) had a philosophy, and said philosophy is "Simplify and add lightness". The cars he made reflected this, from the no-frills-at-all Lotus Seven of the 1950s/60s/70s/80s/90s/00s/10s (built by Caterham since 1973) to the Exige S and 2-Eleven of today. Lotus was also a pioneer in F1, frequently at the very front of both technological advances and the rest of the grid. Most Lotuses (or Lotii, whichever you prefer), are regarded as fantastic drivers cars, with the more recent Elise (1996 -) considered one of the very best and the benchmark for all small MR sports cars. Even the new Evora is a great car - initially underpowered, but that problem has been solved with a new supercharger - blending world-renown Lotus handling with comfy seats and a level of luxury usually missing from the equation over at Hethel, Norfolk.

It may, however, be the last.

The Elite was a revolutionary sports car, then a four-seater GT shooting brake, now a chubby Ferrari California rival...

Lotus is now under new management, and while a lot of the new people have deeply impressive CVs spanning any major sports car company you care to mention, the cars they had come up with were very complicated and heavy. The exact opposite of Lotus's founding philsosphy. They will also cost a fortune in Lotus terms, and the badges that new CEO Dany Bahar revived are almost completely misplaced. Elan on a mid-engined car? Elite on a coupé-cabriolet? And what the hell is are 4-door car and a city car doing with a Lotus badge? This is not Lotus. They're just going to become "Premium Brand X" and sell to the sheiks and lazy poseurs. The worst crime? All but the Elise replacement will be auto-only (and the Elise only gets a manual for sentimental reasons, possibly the only sentiment left at Lotus). The world's finest purveyor of driver's cars will soon do away with the driver's transmission, thus moving the driver a big step away from the whole "driving" business.

Put simply, Lotus will soon be dead. Using the same name will be Proton's new sports brand, trying to take on just about every prestige brand going, not by beating them, but by becoming one of them. It won't be an easy or dignified death either, because, as you can see atop the first paragraph, they've just teamed up... with Taste's Nemesis.

Mansory is, without question or shadow of doubt, the worst abomination ever to happen to the world of prestige cars. And are Lotus avoiding them? Ignoring them? No, they're joining forces with them! And this is "only a toe in the water". I can't be the only one who wants to cut off that toe. With scissors. Blunt ones. Made of sand paper. Bleeding venom. While laughing maniacally.

I understand that they're a business like any other and they need to survive. I know that every car gets heavier with a new generation (although surely a lightweight sports car shouldn't gain 125kg in one go?), but it's the attitude, the lack of manual, the ignorance of Dany Bahar, who actually said of a beloved small sports car company "We are only interested in profit", round about the time he said "I'm not a car guy"...

This is a company kept alive by fans and enthusiasts. Alienating them to become a generic prestige brand is a stupid thing to do. There are other ways to reinvigorate Lotus, and they would've gone down a LOT better...

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