Is Lotus on the up? It certainly couldn’t have fallen much lower following the Bahar fallout, and many questioned (almost as many still question) the very future of the brand.
But, over these past few weeks, the smallest nuggets of good news have emerged that suggest that maybe, just maybe, the very worst may be over.
The first was a very encouraging visit to the Lotus Originals store in Regent St. Presumably Bahar paid a fortune for a long-term lease on this, as it’s hard to see how it’s justifiable otherwise. Even so, the firm is making a go of it, and it’s packed with interesting stuff that’s both rather cool and rather interesting to nerds like me. Clever stuff: I agree with Bahar here and reckon it’s got potential.
I was there to speak with Romain Grosjean who, along with the mercurial Kimi, was as good a brand ambassador as a fledgling modern, dynamic brand could wish for. Yes, the link with the road car division is in name only, but it’s still more material to work with.
Lotus winning in F1. Consistently. That’s PR gold, no?
Then, the SMMT new car registrations for April were revealed: Lotus sales grew by an eye-watering 100 per cent. It matters not that this only took it from single figures into double (8 to 16): the fact is, Lotus is not only selling cars, but selling more than it did this time last year.
This feeds a feel-good vibe. If the dealers are seeing footfall and converting it into custom despite the chaos that’s surrounded the brand recently, it can only bode well for times when the firm is standing on a more even keel.
Over the weekend, more good news. Apparently, £10m of government growth funds were confirmed to be on the way to Lotus, by Vince Cable himself, just as soon as the final paperwork was complete.
This, you’ll remember was the funding package that Bahar failed to get: the package that he said would create 1000 new jobs. Clearly the new management team has been more convincing and secured the money – indicating its future product plan is now perceived to be viable?
Today came the fourth seedling: a dealer group on the south coast is putting its money into Lotus, and launch a Lotus sales franchise for the Southampton region (taking its UK total up to 12).
I’ve worked for Car Dealer Magazine and thus know that dealers are canny people that don’t put money into a dud. Snows Group, which is taking on the franchise, clearly sees a tarnished brand that’s ripe for an upturn, and so has built a brand-new showroom to launch its new acquisition on 18 May.
Showrooms don’t come cheap. Lotus is thus sending Martin Donnelly down to draw the crowds, and will be running test drives in the Exige S, Evora Sports Racer and stalwart Elise S.
Can you remember the last Lotus new dealer launch? Or the last time it recorded green sales figures rather than red? Me neither.
Which is why I’m hopeful. DRB Hicom has been quiet since the Bahar fallout but surely must be nearing completion of its strategy for future development and be ready to go public with it. Indeed, it’s already seemingly convinced the government, while dealer groups also apparently think it’s viable.
So, is Lotus set to nurture these seedlings and tell us just what it has planned for the future soon? I do hope so: in the meantime, here’s to more good news coming out of Norfolk.
Goodness knows, the brand deserves it. Plenty of it.