Lotus fiddles with the Evora while Hethel burns..


Our disappointment with Lotus stems not just from the way in which they’ve been mismanaged by their new owners, DRB-Hicom, but also the way in which its PR spin-doctors tread such a dangerously insincere line that it’s difficult to see how trust can ever be restored.

Yesterday represented another chapter in that case history, as the car maker announced the new Lotus Evora Sports Racer – essentially a more highly-specified Evora with a unique colour scheme.

The Evora ‘Sports Racer’ is available in a choice of four colours: Aspen White, Carbon Grey, Nightfall Blue and Ardent Red, with contrasting accents of gloss black across the roof, front splitter, rear diffuser and side sills. Further black elements include black rear badging, black door mirror pods and gloss black forged wheels with a choice of either red or black brake calipers.

Inside, the black leather Premium Sports seats are trimmed with red contrast piping and stitching, while the dash, doors and centre console receive a liberal dose of Slate Grey SuedeTexTM with red contrast stitching.

Venom Red leather seats with black contrast piping and stitching is also available, while the interior is complemented by gunmetal dashboard panels, as normally standard in the Evora S.

All cars are fitted with a ‘sports pack’, which provides a switchable sports mode for the engine with sharper throttle response, an increased rev limit and sportier settings for the Dynamic Performance Management (DPM) system, plus a sports diffuser at the rear and cross-drilled brake discs.

The Evora Sports Racer is available in 276bhp (normally aspirated) and 345bhp Evora S form, priced at £57,900 and £65,900 respectively, which represents a discount of £6,450 and £7,150 from a standard Evora configured to a similar specification.

Sounds good, so why the disappointment?

It’s been nearly a year since I visited the factory in Hethel and saw the revised Evora models, which were due to be launched at the Goodwood festival of Speed in July. I was immediately captivated by how ‘right’ they looked and at the time former-CEO Dany Bahar was determined to bring down the Evora’s price to offer serious competition to the Porsche Boxster.

Lotus-Exige-S-still-born-G3Lotus would rather we forget about the revised Evora which was originally due for launch in July.

Although Lotus has released just a single image of the Evora Sports Racer, it shows little of what made the revised Evora look so accomplished. And made us remark at the time that “..we’d be happy to pay more than a Porsche” if the Evora looked like this.

By failing to join up the story, Lotus leaves us to assume that its new Sports Racer is merely a parts-bin special, formed from what’s currently available in their workshops. For most of the year Lotus has been unable to maintain production due to grievances with its suppliers – it resorted to building cusomer orders where parts were available and therefore newer models, such as the Exige S were placed on the back-burner.

But this is what Lotus has unfortunately become in recent years, full of PR bluster but lacking the narrative to explain to its customers what’s actually going on. Clearly they’d like you to forget about the revised Evora – which DRB-appointed COO Aslam Farikullah decided in a Grolsch-like moment “wasn’t ready” – even though it was completing road trials back in May.

A further glance at the spec sheet of the ‘new’ Evora Sports Racer shows a combined fuel consumption of 30.3 mpg with CO2 emissions of 217 g/km. Compare that with the latest 271bhp Porsche Cayman, which achieves 36.7 mpg and 180 g/km (with PDK) and is priced at £41,616 – some £16,284 less than the Evora.

Perhaps you can understand why it’s so painful watching Lotus die in such an ignominious manner.

  • Simon

    dear Steve, I could not agree more with you!

    Its a shame what they do to Lotus ……

    I have been a Lotus fan all my live and owned many Lotus (still do), I wanted badly a new Exige S, becuase its a great car and I swear, if they would bring the Evora as the Bahar team has prepared it, I would get a Evora S as well!!!

    But at the moment, its very difficult for me to make an order …….. what the Malaysians dont understand is, that from the buyers perspective, buing a Lotus is not first of all a money issue, its an emotional “thing” but all the happy feelings I had all my life for Lotus, are gone for the moment.

    Dumping Dany, was the worst move they have done, because he had a vision and with him, the vision has gone ……

    Let me tell you, that me and many others are very glad, that you writte about Lotus from time to time, because you are the only one, speaking the truth, about what’s going on at Lotus.

    Wish you a happy X-Mas and all the best for 2013!


    • Hi Simon, thank you for those kind words. I love supporting an underdog, so ‘bitching’ about Lotus is the exact opposite of what I’d like to be doing. When Thomas Hoffman (their Comms Director) originally invited me in to help convey the truth (in the midst of all the comedy references to Dany’s plans) I was provided access to the goings-on at Hethel and was able to assure myself of a brand worth saving. But I’ve had to watch much of what was good be destroyed and as an enthusiast, businessman and past owner I find that unforgiveable.

      Most of the friends and contacts I had at Lotus have since been fired, and whenever I reveal yet another truth I hear scuffles behind the scenes as fingers are pointed (at employees or partners) and people are warned of the consequences of speaking up.

      Then you’ll notice some counter-PR news article popping up in one of the weekly rags trying to cast doubt on what I’ve published, and of course they comply because they’re all part of the same eco-system where brands support their media of choice, who then reciprocate with CoTY awards and such like. I like to believe most enthusiasts can see right through this, but I suspect many don’t.

      Without the car makers lending cars to journalists, their magazines could not survive – everyone in the business knows this, yet all pretend it doesn’t influence their behavior. I don’t blame the journalists, most of whom just want to spend their working days around cars, although this is one of the ethical concessions they must make.

      I took a browse through the usual mags (evo, Autocar, AutoExpress, PH, MSN..) and not one of them raised a single question about this latest Evora, even though most readers comments were typically scathing of the absurdity of a heavier, more expensive version of a car that isn’t selling. The mags don’t care, enough readers still trot out and buy them and the brands don’t care because most media don’t call them to account.

      The truth might appear to hurt (in the short-term), but that’s ultimately what I believe enthusiasts like you and I care most about, and it ‘should’ drive car makers to become more competitive. The only other publication I know of who dares tell the truth is Jalopnik, so we’re definitely in the minority.

      Have a great Christmas and keep reading..

      • Tata tat

        “A further glance at the spec sheet of the ‘new’ Evora Sports Racer shows a combined fuel consumption of 30.3 mpg with CO2 emissions of 217 g/km. Compare that with the latest 271bhp Porsche Cayman, which achieves 36.7 mpg and 180 g/km (with PDK) and is priced at £41,616 – some £16,284 less than the Evora.”

        But it’s not just the new Cayman, being much cheaper, more efficient and all-round much better, that’s the Evora’s/Lotus’s problem, is it.

        Cars like the phenomenal £30k BMW M135i and the well-received Toyobaru GT86/BRZ have moved the game on, in affordability and bang for buck.

        Why fork out nearly £60k on an Evora when you can have similar or better performance from a half-the-price M135i?

        Then there’s the next Audi TT, probably to be launched at IAA 2013. A 1,400 kilo(DIN), 350 hp+, 0-62 sub-4 s, TT-RS, for under £50k, will blow the prehistoric Evora away.

        Then there’s the 2013 A45 AMG: 350 hp, 0-62 in 4.5 s, around £40k.

        Then there’s the coming BMW M3/M4, circa 450 hp, 1,500 kg, 0-62 4 s, around £60k.

        Then there’s the expected 250 hp+, £30k GT86/BRZ.

        Then there’s the… .

        And so it goes on. Lotus is all but dead already. All it needs is someone grasp the nettle; to switch the lights off. Why prolong the agony?

        • I completely agree Paul, Lotus has become such an embarrassment to the legacy and achievements of Colin Chapman and yet..

          They still produce the best steering systems on any car, still manage to balance ride and handling better than any car maker, still understand how to blend driver involvement with safe predictable driving fun.

          Let’s not lose sight of how important these qualities are and let another world class team of engineers be undermined by shoddy mis-management.

          • I’d totally missed this thread sparking up!. You’re right about the Syria style culture inside Lotus – a negative story breaks, and someones kneescaps go with it I gather.

            I spent some time with a rather miffed local business person in Norwich yesterday who had spent some time with the charming Gino Rosato, (someone I wish I’d never met and much less wish I’d never done any work for). How folks like him were ever let loose to run (I use the word it it’s broadest sense) the company god knows.

            At least the departure of so many of these folks has had one positive effect on the local community – there’s been plenty of work for car valeters getting all those white crsytals out of the carpet of Evoras and rebuilt Esprits. How those folks were so careless with the sugar for their McDonalds coffee I’ll never know.

          • I’ve never met Gino, but if Kimi Raikkonen’s view is anything to go by (while both were at Ferrari) he’s not going to feature on anyone’s ‘Top 10 Automotive Executives’ list any time soon..

          • lol get in quick…. someone has ‘edited’ Bahar’s wikipedia entry and it reads in a very amusing way – it wasn’t me! It will get taken down I expect but until then it’s the amusing work of someone who is clearly disgruntled…. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dany_Bahar

          • Very mischievous. The published version has been re-edited, but of course being Wikipedia, the amusing edit is still visible at http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dany_Bahar&diff=536040194&oldid=535157610

  • Bentzion

    Isn’t short sighted THE latest trend when it comes to most industries and I might add human behavior these days? The stock market, Governments, Eating habits etc…

    I’m sorry to say but Lotus is just another blip in the grand scheme of things. Except Lotus doesn’t have the Luxury of being able to act this way and recover from it. The British Government should be ashamed of itself for allowing a foreign investor to kill a company that employs its citizens, that of it’s supply chains and increases its GDP at the very least!

  • Had to drive down Potash Lane yesterday so kept going and had a look at the factory. The gates to the Management offices are now permanently locked presumably to stop anyone from the real world getting in and any crazy press releases getting out.

    Meanwhile the local paper today splashed that Lotus are partners in running the new City Technical Academy here in Norwich. Presumably Lotus will be running the Business Management courses.

    • I was due to visit (nearby) just before Christmas but I haven’t driven past for a few months now. I have to say Nik, everything I hear points towards a sale. DRB’s new ‘showroom’ in Kuala Lumpur is along the same lines as when Proton kitted out their reception with cars a few years ago.

      DRB has managed to shift 20 cars in Malaysia, which is more than a ‘whole month’ of 2012 production, but I can’t help imagining that Tony Fernandes is doubled-over laughing at such an achievement.

      Every one of the Latest press releases from Lotus is designed to say, “we’re still here..!” but if I were running DRB they’d (sadly) not have long for this world. For DRB, who still face a huge task in knocking Proton into shape, Lotus are an unhelpful distraction that will only cast doubts on their ability to run a car company. Remember DRB don’t actually have any experience of running a car maker, so the stock market is far from convinced that success is inevitable.

      We are more than 12 months on since DRB announced they had agreed to buy Proton Holdings and the sum total of their achievement (so far) is to destroy most of the shareholder value that Kimberley and Bahar created (with MK accounting for most of that). Could you imagine what Audi would have done with Lotus in such a time scale?

      Last week DRB’s Chairman quoted a sales forecast of 4,000 – 5,000 cars from Lotus, based on the premise that markets such as China, Singapore and Thailand would account for much of that demand. I’ve been here many times before (heck I’ve even spun the rhetoric for my own companies) and it all sounds like a man talking-up the value of his business while trying to convince potential buyers that they’re on to a killer deal.

      Sound like anyone you know…? (Arthur Dailey)