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Fernandes to use Formula 1 to promote a “sports car for everybody”?
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Fernandes to use Formula 1 to promote a “sports car for everybody”?
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Apr 2011   |  8:58 am GMT  |  130 comments

The battle over the use of the name Lotus in F1 is in a holding pattern at the moment as the two sides wait for the judge, who heard the case last month at the High Court in London, to deliver his judgement.

This will probably come in the next couple of weeks.


But in the last few days, stories have emerged of what Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes’ next move is likely to be. On Wednesday 27th April he is holding a press conference at Duxford aerodrome, near Cambridge to announce a new business venture and both Reuters and Autosport have reported that this is to announce that he has acquired the Caterham brand, makers of Lotus 7 shaped sports cars. The event is at an aerodrome because the F1 team Lotus will do some straight line aero testing that day.

But what might he be trying to do with Caterham?

Fernandes’ original idea when starting the F1 team and licencing the Lotus name was to rebuild the Lotus brand identity via Formula 1 and then make an offer to the Malaysian government to take over Group Lotus from the state owned Proton company. He would then have been making affordable sports cars, which he promoted via his F1 team. This plan was thwarted by the arrival of Bahar as CEO at Group Lotus, who cancelled the licence to use the Lotus name in F1 and launched his own ambitious plans for a range of Lotus cars.

Fernandes could have waited to see whether Bahar’s plans fail, which might give him a chance to follow through on his original plan, but that could take years and anyway Bahar might succeed, so Fernandes needed another route to market for his road car ambitions.

I spoke to him several times before Christmas about his vision for F1 and listening back to the recording today, a picture begins to emerge of how Caterham fits into the strategy, particularly if he wins the High Court case and is allowed to keep the Team Lotus name in F1.

Fernandes believes that Lotus’ heartland is the affordable sports car sector of the market, the £20,000 to £40,000 bracket; “guys that cannot afford Porsches or Ferraris, but want a sports car”. He believes that this is going to be a massive market in his part of the world, which is Asia. Almost a third of the F1 Grands Prix are now in Asia and he is positioning his team as the Asian F1 team.

Here he differs from the likes of McLaren, which is firmly targeted at the higher end of the market and Ferrari, which has been using F1 to sell sports cars since the 1950s.

“Over the last year we have seen the strength and the weakness of the Lotus brand and what we can do in Asia in terms of monetising a brand, ” he said.

“We can offer a very powerful billboard on the car, (which) could be used to promote things that we own or want to develop.”

So ultimately this could lead to him slightly rebranding the F1 outfit as Team Lotus Caterham (if he wins the court case) and then manufacturing a range of sports cars called Caterham. By doing it this way he has all the brand association from the F1 team, without needing to call the road cars Lotus.

If he loses the case he has a sports car brand with a strong heritage in the right sector and the right associations to build the F1 team around.

Also with F1 moving towards a more road relevant 1.6 litre turbocharged hybrid engine in 2013, the opportunity is there to put a production version of the engine into an affordable sports car and really trade on the F1 connection.

Fernandes feels that Lotus boss Danny Bahar is making a strategic error in directing Group Lotus into the higher end of the market, away from its traditional customer base and into areas where Ferrari and Porsche are so strong.


The Caterham brand has been in that lower end of the market for many years, since the rights to build the design known as the Lotus 7 were acquired by the Nearn family from Colin Chapman in 1973. They sold it on to a former Lotus executive from Malaysia six years ago.

Caterhams have a thriving racing pedigree too, with many championships in existence around the world. They are very easy to drive hard and great fun.

Fernandes’ Air Asia carries around 14 million passengers a year via its hubs in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Jakarta and can market his cars directly to them as well to a wider audience via the F1 platform.

His brand ethos with his airline, Air Asia is “now everyone can fly” and it looks like he’s trying to take the same message into mass market sports cars.

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130 Comments
  1. Barkshire F1 says:

    I realy like what Tony is doing – top man!

  2. Rob Sinfield says:

    The fact that the press conference is at an aerodrome probably has nothing to do with Air Asia. Lotus are doing aero testing there that day with Ricardo Teixeira behind the wheel.

  3. Andy Fov says:

    When someone like Fernandes comes into the sport with a vision to make F1 more accessible to the regular fan then I wish him every success with that.

    Not every F1 fan has the budget for Hugo Boss branded merchandise. Fernandes seems to recognise that, and I think he’s very savvy for it.

    When McLaren entered the home audio market they made some fabulous kit, but their mistake IMO was to leave no sensible entry point to any enthusiast living on a middle income. The utimately failed. There are only a finite number of playboys and it’s a mistake to focus only on that market. Are McLaren following the same flawed path with their road cars project? Time’ll tell, but I’ll bet well be seeing a lot more Sevens on the road in future.

    1. eniqma says:

      nice words…well, Tony came from ordinary family too…so he understand it from his experiences

      “When he was young, he used to follow his mother, a businesswoman, to Tupperware dealer parties and conventions.”

      Salute to Tony Fernandes

    2. For Sure says:

      As a young entrepreneur, I appreciate his work just like many. And he’s got grade 8 in Piano too which may sound completely irrelevant but it shows that he can excel in totally different areas, may be in F1 too.

  4. Andy H says:

    Smart Man
    This now gives Proton no out route should they decide to eat humble pie.
    I think the message is “had your chance, blew it”. Caterham F1 does have a certain ring to it, if they loose Team Lotus but I doubt it!

  5. Andy c says:

    Not a bad move. Caterhams are fantastic cars and clearly not everyday cars.

    With some real investment they will be able to expand the global appeal. Not sure how many people outside the uk know about them, but they are about as close as you can get to a no frills racer for the road. They can outperform a lot of cars cost 4 times as much. Great fun.

    Will be interesting to see it develop.

    1. S.J.M says:

      Well when you think about it, Fernandes is buying a lightweight sports car company that can sell these cars in the market that Bahra has just pulled Lotus out of, effectivly filling the void hes left.

      1. Rudy Pyatt says:

        Bingo.

        Everyone has moved upscale over the years, basically in an effort to out-Ferrari Ferrari or at least Porsche. Chapman himself had already moved Lotus up-market by the time he sold on the rights to the 7 to the Nearn family. But the Imitation Ferrari Business Plan isn’t sustainable. GTs are, and always have been, expensive. A sports car was (and should still be) a different animal by virtue of its more accessible price and performance.

        What Fernandes is doing will fill the affordable mass-market two-seater void left not only by Bahar/Proton, but by virtually every manufacturer bar Mazda (with the Miata MX5, itself an Elan take-off) since Chapman’s move away from sports cars to GTs, and the subsequent demise of Triumph and MG.

        Who knows? Maybe Fernandes will purchase the rights to those names too…

      2. Chris Garwood says:

        Good points, but isn’t the car that saved (Group) Lotus over recent years the Elise, a small affordable 2 seater sports car ?

      3. Mitchell says:

        I agree, Lotus has actually built its name around small cars of late. The Elise and Exige bought the lotus renaissance so to speak. It is only since they have had this success they want to go Ferrari fighting.

    2. Markdartj says:

      They are great cars. I’ve heard of them and live in the northwest corner of the US, about as far away as you can get. They have a bigger power to weight ratio than a Bugatti Veyron.

      1. Dan says:

        @Chris Garwood

        The Elise should be the main reason to stick to this market and try and build on it… instead they’ve shrugged their shoulders at lack of sales and gone ‘hmm, I know what a Lotus should be… much heavier and twice as expensive!!’

  6. DrPaul says:

    For the sake of his new employees, I hope his plans do not include moving the business to Malaysia. I have personal experience of Malaysian business people buying up an entire manufacturing group and transferring its order book and assets to Malaysia. What is this obsession they have with owning British marques and why are we so powerless to prevent all and sundry from pillaging our manufacturing industry?

    1. jmv says:

      It’s called globalization… a game once developed by Western powers – when they were enjoying its dominance.

      There was a time too when a lot of manufacturing (such as the high quality weaving of rich fabrics for clothing) from Asia went to Europe… with Asia only left with supplying the rawest of material (such as unprocessed cotton) leading to a demise of the local manufacturing industry.

      This ‘obsession’ is nothing more than a group of smart people capitalizing on the still existing brand value and know-how, and moving production to low cost areas where the skill levels are guaranteed to be above the threshold levels.

      If you own the brand plus the manufacturing know-how you can transplant to any place in the world (set up a plant, train the workers and start producing). From the Malaysian’s perspective.. “any place in the world”… their Malaysia is the place that they control. So added security and control over transplanting the production.

      1. Dr Paul says:

        You seem to think that there’s some kind of Karma involved here, judging by your second paragraph but I fail to see how that’s a justification for repeating the sins of our fathers. Try using that argument with the hundreds of thousands of working class men and women who have lost their jobs as the manufacturing industry has dwindled away in this country.

      2. For Sure says:

        Very well said.

      3. jonrob says:

        Ironically the head honcho of GM Europe was bemoaning the lack of UK component suppliers just recently.

        The main reason for this dearth, is the Global Purchasing policy practised by all the major volume European car manufacturers.

        For instance I recall quoting a well known German peoples car manufacturer for a part, this in itself requires an awful lot of work maybe 200 or more pages of specs mostly in German, to conform to, returnable packaging to design, delivery to each of three or four different factories to be included but only from their chosen transport company. So you do 3 weeks work and submit your quotation in the proper manner; then about a month later you receive a message that the target price for this part is £x.xx. this is a figure that barely covers materials but has been quoted by your competitor in Korea or Egypt. You know this is just a ploy and that no way can they meet the spec at that price, they know they wont get the business and will later withdraw but the MM uses it as leverage on the remaining suppliers quoting. At the end if you get the business it will be open book (ie you have to show then your accounts) and they allow you to make 3%. nett. The order will have a cost improvement clause of maybe 1% per year for 3 years. (You will make cost savings each year by improving your methods, being more efficient and screwing your materials supplier.) You are expected to manufacture and supply to schedule, 2 months firm plus 2 months materials if you are lucky, if they change the schedule downwards you get lumbered with materials some of which may have a lead time of 3 months themselves plus shipping manufacture and QC time. For Germany everything must be done according to VDA quality standards and methods. (for other countries it will be ISO/QS/EN9000/TS16949 or
        PSA etc) this means complete project management, design control, design FMEA, production FMEAs. document control, drawing control. PPAP submission, PP Quality plan
        and for some, SPC (Statistical process control). I have really only just scratched the surface.

        So the number of UK suppliers able to compete globally is limited to those having a minimum quorum of people, with between them, the requisite skills and knowledge. When I started in the industry the buyer got taken to lunch and wrote the order out when he got back, nowadays you compete with other suppliers of your type of product from all over the world, get screwed on margin and do ten times more work for it.
        Globalisation in the automotive industry is what killed many UK suppliers. Margins have been driven so low, that with very few exceptions, only very large organisations can exist and make a profit. Mostly these are not now UK based.
        As I said above, this just scratches the surface and there are other aspects and reasons to the story I have not mentioned. And in fact different stories.

  7. Jack Flash says:

    All Power to Tony Fernandes.

    I hope he wins the court battle, and “Team Lotus Caterham” moves into the future of F1. Should he lose, F1 “Team Caterham” would work also. Tony has both outcomes now covered – smart guy.

    I think Tony’s vision of a F1 marketing for a line of his business for sports cars in the ‘everyday man’ market is inspired. This is a big difference form Danny Bahar’s ill-considered ‘break into market’ fight with the likes of the big boys (Ferrari, Porsche, etc). Especially since Danny is trying to do it in six car models at once, without knowing if the gamble will work out. Easy to gamble with Malaysian Governments money, isn’t it Danny?

    Stick it to ‘em Tony. ;)
    JF

    1. Neil Ford says:

      Well jack, clearly you have no pride in heritage, would see no value of waiving a flag which represents the birth of that heritage and will support any busineman who’s only skill is in massaging their ego and who’s to scared to risk their own company’s branding via F1. Do you drive a TVR?

  8. Le Gazman says:

    Good on him. Lotus will not be happy with any further mixing of their brand so if he wins he can be assured they will buy the name off him. Of not he also wins by putting the caterham name into f1, which in my opinion is an inspired move.

    Now caterham have struggled for many years to come up with a model to succeed the 7, so if the move is to pay off he willhave to bring in some additional talent to come up with the andwertheyve all been struggling to find.

  9. Colin Riley says:

    If he used the “7″ as part of the branding might a certain soft drinks company be interested as a sponsor? I seem to recall they did in F1 sometime back.

    1. John Zammit says:

      If you’re referring to Mild Seven, I believe they were a cigarette company not a soft drinks company. I think they used to sponsor Benetton.

      1. Hannah says:

        There is/was (haven’t seen any for a while) 7up so he could move into soft drinks too. The world is you oyster if you are smart and savvy enough

      2. Rudy Pyatt says:

        Not Mild Seven cigarettes, but 7-Up brand soft drinks. Jordan had them as prime sponsor in they’re pre-tobacco days. Bringing 7-Up back to F1 (Corporate color: Green) would be genius.

      3. Tommy says:

        “7-Up”, surely? The green would fit the Lotus and Caterham schemes nicely!

      4. Stephen says:

        I think he was referring to 7UP…

      5. Phillip says:

        I think he’s referring to 7up who sponsored Jordan.

      6. Jake says:

        He’s referring to the Jordan 191 with 7Up sponsorship. The one Michael Schumacher made his first F1 start with at Spa in 1991.

      7. Adam Tate says:

        He’s referring to 7UP, who famously sponsored the 1991 Jordan of Michael Schumacher fame.

        I’d love to see such a sponsorship and good for Tony Fernandes. It’s a shame he isn’t CEO of Lotus Group, Bahar is insane and his plans will remove Lotus entirely from its traditional base.

      8. tank says:

        7 up Jordan.

      9. Chaz says:

        I think Colin was probably refering to 7up who were title sponsors of Jordan in their first couple of seasons..the 7up Jordan was also one of the best looking F1 cars (after the JPS Lotus of course!)

      10. David Hodge says:

        No, I think he means 7-up from the very old Jordan days.

      11. Charlie B says:

        I think he’s referring to 7up, who I think sponsored Jordan.

      12. Peer WElls says:

        Id say he was talking about 7 up Jordan sponsorship or even the 7-up BMW williams sponsorsship

      13. Colin Riley says:

        No I think you may find “7 UP” part of the Pepsi Cola group who sponsored Jordan in the 90′s and gave M. Schumacher his first drive in F1.

      14. Adam Tate says:

        Actually 7 UP is part of the Dr. Pepper group.

      15. Giles Hudson says:

        No, I’m guessing he meant the 7-Up soft drink . . .

      16. GoWebberGo(UNOC) says:

        I guessing 7 up?

        I don’t think it would work. Is the green for Lotus or for 7up? and is that a Lotus sponsored by 7up or jsut a green lotus promoting the 7?

        If Fernandes lost then he could investigate and get a a green 7up on his car but if I was at 7up decideding whether I should or shouldn’t sponsor I wouldn’t simply because I would feel that my brand (7up) would too easily be confused with both the already poyiant (spelling?) colours of the team aswell as the 7 from the car he is already promoting (probably).

        It would be like that chinese brand called Ferrari sponsoring ferrari, many wouldn’t realise…

        YTou need publicity to promote a brand and so Marlboro probably was enjoying the whole ‘bar code’ debarcle last season as it provided the publicity that otherwise wouldn’t be there.

        the publicity currently about Fernandes is about Team Lotus and about Caterhams and such, and I feel that looking at a Green Lotus with a 7 on it I wouldn’t think 7up, I’d think Team Lotus….. oh and that Lotus 7 car not 7up.

        Maybe a smaller sponsor as then you could have a logo, but there is no point paying for the car to be the Lotus colours as they would be too easily confused

  10. seisteve says:

    I loved this story when I heard it last week and really like Fernandes and his brand of business sense. In one move he has removed the risk of the judgement going against him and if it goes in his direction then he can agree terms with Lotus Renault and still come out on top.

    Add into the Caterham mix Mike and his technical team and something very special has to be the output.

    Awesome.

  11. brooksy007 says:

    You’ve got to admire this guy for never giving up!! I bet he’s a great chess player too!! I hope he gets to keep lotus for f1 as he was the creator of its return to the sport.

  12. Darrren says:

    And good luck to Tony, sound like a great guy , mr bahar on the other hand does not seem to make many friend

  13. Bob says:

    rape and pillage…… that is all he is doing. Start your own company for once ferandes

    1. Thomas says:

      He has SAVED a debt ridden airline and started Team lotus from scratch, pay attention.

    2. Chris Chong says:

      Well, he did buy a failing airline company and turn it into the biggest budget airline in Asia.

      If that constitutes “rape and pillage”, I suppose there’s no pleasing you.

    3. Ward Safi says:

      Erm, you do know his F1 team was from scratch don’t you?

      1. Tom says:

        He started a team from scratch, and then bolted on a name. That is clearly what Bob was talking about.

    4. Ry says:

      That’s not really a valid comment. Airline was going bust and the f1 team was started from nothing (with approval to use the name, until the group went back on the deal). If you’re gonna have a go at the guy, at least get the facts right and spell his name correctly……

    5. DK says:

      Is that you, Mr. Bahar?

    6. For Sure says:

      I wouldn’t attack someone personally. But those who criticize other successful people, generally have one thing in common, lack of success.
      The critics of Schumacher prove it.

      1. Teaflax says:

        No critics of Schumacher have another thing in common: they aren’t cheaters.

      2. For Sure says:

        Really? Like Damon hill who took out Schumacher a few times and people didn’t remember it?

  14. Hugh says:

    Good luck to Fernandes, I hope his plans are a success. I hope he wins the court case as well. It would be very disappointing to see a wide boy like Bahar profit from the Lotus name as he seems to have zero interest in the actual racing.

  15. Matt says:

    I’m liking this guy and his team more and more.

    I think it’s guys and approaches like this that F1 needs.

  16. I see it as a smart contingency plan, allowing Fernandes to save some face if Bahar succeeds. He will have Caterham, which is synonymous with Lotus, and most likely wind up with the license to build Elise/Exige/Evoras as they no longer figure into Bahar’s plans for Lotus. Effectively, the Nearn to Bahar’s Chapman…although I’m sure the egos involved would find another way to spin it.

    1. Adrian Jordan says:

      I wonder whether, if TF wins the High court case he might do a deal with Group Lotus to give them the rights to the Team Lotus name in return for the IP and designs used for the (very successful) Elise and Exige models which don’t fit in with the new Group Lotus business plan but would fit beautifully in with the Caterham business plan as their “high end” sports cars.

      1. Andy C says:

        Now that sir, is a very good call indeed….

        Watch this space. You might be onto something there.

  17. Patrick Byrne says:

    From what I’ve read a lot of car industry analysts and journos are dubious about Behr’s vision of Lotus – effectively launching an entire range of cars over the next 5 years and abandoning the ‘modern 7′ ethos of their most successful model, the Elise. He wants to move them into Ferrari/Porsche territory overnight.

    Given that the current Evora has had very mediocre sales, despite glowing praise from many sections of the press this does seem rather foolhardy.

    Fernandes plan seems more plausible. And Caterham has a cachet and heritage of it’s own after all these years in the business. Definetely something that could be built on…

    1. Andy C says:

      Well if someone offers to sell you three magic beans, you have to be a little sceptical.

      Producing 5 or so different cars is a big job, let alone producing 5 or so cars to take on Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati.

      Absolutely no chance I’m afraid… but for the good people that for Lotus in Norfolk I hope they continue ok.

  18. moose says:

    This man is one hell of a businessman.

    1. Dan says:

      These low-fare airline guys usually are… Stelios, Mick O’Leary, Tony… they’ve got great foresight

  19. Powerman5000 says:

    unfortunately the Catherham brand doesn’t refer to a modern technologies. So I hope that Fernandes will upgrade the model line with something more suitable to F1 than the 70′s design.

  20. Kev says:

    If I were Fernandes, I’d Drop the whole Lotus thing now, as its probably doing more harm than good, putting pride to one side.

    The tie up with Caterham sounds brilliant. The Air-Asia Caterham GP sounds like a much better bet going forward, and as you say, an excellent platform for selling road cars.

    I’ve had a lot of time for “Team Lotus” and want to see them continue and ultimately win races, but they’re not Lotus, so stop pretending.

    1. Vee says:

      Why he need to drop, he is real fans of team lotus since kids. He will do anything to keeps the name. He has real spirit of colin chapman racing spirit. Better proton focus to make more new model car and save some money..

      1. Kev says:

        I think he should drop it as Lotus Group are doing his image more harm than, than the Team Lotus Name is doing good.

        He may be a massive lotus fan, but currently they aren’t a good thing to associate yourself with.

        He would keep the fans for his style, the teams openness and the Caterham name is better in my opinion.

    2. Andy C says:

      Im not sure he’d want to drop the case, as you have to say he is sitting pretty well at the moment.

      I think he’ll win the case personally, and will get quite a lot out of it…

  21. jonrob says:

    Several thoughts spring from this:
    1) Brilliant move by Tony.
    2) F1 engine (probably massively de-rated) in your own car, fantastic, that would appeal to many boy racers all over the world, and just the thing for the track .Mind, the insurance in the UK would be astronomical,
    3) Bahar has not been seen on UK tv or captured in any F1 photo, why is this? Does he realise what we think of him? Does he keep clear of all F1 events in case he is challenged or asked awkward questions?
    4) The fact that is is yet another Lotus in all but name (ok and maybe lots of bits like the engine) but most of us in the UK still firmly think of the Lotus 7 with great affection since it was immortalised as KAR120C in the opening sequence of The Prisoner (nobody mention the weird and appalling remake please) and maybe one episode.
    5) Apart from Morgan/Westfield etc, which are expensive, the Lotus 7 is the epitome of the British middle class sports car.
    6) The fact that it is actually called Caterham may not soften the blow for Bahar, I wonder who the first interviewer will be, to use “Lotus” instead of “Caterham”.

    1. Stk says:

      Great move by Tony!!

      Like everyone one else on this post I hope Danny fails misserably and Tony can build a successful and lasting F1 team..

      While an F1 road engined road car sounds great it’s never going to happen!! The current v8s cost around 400000 Usd and only last a few races.. The Cosworth engine used by catterham a few years ago which produced some awsome stats was too expensive at around 50000 usd

      1. jonrob says:

        Well the Coventry Climax used to fit the Lotus seven. This engine was also used in F1 I believe in the Cooper. My cousin had one in a Morgan.

        No, I agree, it would need to be a pale but exciting imitation of the F1 engine using conventional materials.

  22. Kenny says:

    Interesting to hear this about how Bahar is wanting to move into the “higher” sector as it were, trying to move away from the image of Lotus cars being “affordable” supercars and as you say going up against the likes of Ferrari, Mclaren and Porsche. It almost seems as if he despises this image! All his talk of wanting to see Lotus as a leading team in F1 and not an “underdog” team when quite frankly, that original underdog team is still the 4th most successful constructor in F1 or something.

    Fernandes meanwhile sticking to the “affordable” idea certainly also matches up to aiding the current economical climate. In addition, I believe a lot of sportscar fans very much like Lotus cars as they are, “cheap” for supercars, but very much able to keep pace with a number of significantly more expensive cars.

    It will be interesting to see how things pan out, but I do hope Tony Fernandes does win this given the fact that Group Lotus and Team Lotus appear to be separate from each other.

  23. Alex says:

    The more I read about Fenandes, the more I like the guy!
    He sounds very switched on and I’m really rooting for him and the team to win the court case and to succeed in F1.

    Yet again James, you have written a very informative, insightful article. Thanks!

    1. Nika Wattinen says:

      I totally agree, Alex.

      Tony Fernandes is just the kind of person we need in F1, the old school entrepreneurial type, like Tyrell/Williams/Ecclestone

    2. Thomas says:

      LOL

      Don’t follow many other F1 sites then.

  24. Josias says:

    What a smart Business Man! I am liking this guy and Team Lotus more and more. I hope his plans works out! …and let’s only have one “Lotus” Team in F1…Team Lotus.

    If i’d be investing into an F1 team, it would have to be Team Lotus, great potential and business savvy entrepreneurs at the helm!

    If only Richard Branson would be more involved with Virgin F1, maybe they wouldn’t be where they are now.

  25. S.J.M says:

    I dont believe that Fernandes has purchased Caterham as a failsafe if he looses the Court Case (using the name in the F1 team instead of Team Lotus). Fernandes seems quite savey in business and clearly believes that theres a market for lightweight sports cars in Asia. With the way that oil prices are going, a small light quick car might appeal more then aa heavier & thirsty car thats also more expensive, he could well be onto a winner. Of course Caterham also has one of the biggest single car formula racing series which is just 1 other way to sell his cars.

  26. David S says:

    Entirely logical business plan which makes much more sense than the high profit, lower volume, high risk route offered by Lotus Cars. Great insight here James.

    On purely business terms I wish Tony success as for most of us these Supercars are simply out of reach so an affordable Lotus ‘MX-5′ would surely have an excellent chance of commercial success.

    I sense that in the long-term Lotus cars will become increasingly cash-starved through an over ambitious R&D program which may well result in a serious financial meltdown with an inevitable result. I just hope that all the guys in Norfolk can get through it.

    Whatever happens the Lotus heritage deserves a responsible and respectful guardian.

  27. GoWebberGo(UNOC) says:

    Agree.

    Whether or not Fernandes wins the court case one thing is for sure his team is much more closely associated with the philosphy of the original team lotus than Group Lotus are.

    I along with others think that GL has made a big mistake when they first annoucned their 29 million* news cars, and it is great t o see media (JA) and people actually doing something about it (Fernandes).

    I think at tehe end of the day, especially in parts of the world like Australia (where porsches that cost the equivalent of AUS$100k in England or AUS$97k in USA etc… cost more than AUS$230k in Australia) where almost all sports cars are so far out of the reach of people (meaning your average business city AUS$150k a year partner of a law firm or business person etc…) that affordable sports cars in various ranges of price will sell alot more.

    Going with Australia, there are many Australians who like cars and like driving fast, sure we have the ultra strict rules especially in Victoria but we also have an F1 GP that has been in tihs country for 26 years, and a full blown touring car series (V8 Supercars), and affordable sports car marketed right can sell very well as we have seen by the few cheap (respectively) sportscars in the market. Even the current top line HSV’s and FPV’s are cheaper overseas than in Australia and cheaper performance cars without the ‘bogan’ image of a Falcadore could attract many customers in Australia.

    Obviously other countries exist and they would do so aswell but I’m just using Australia as an illustration of people who would buy a a subAUS$100k performance car.

    *may be a slight exageration

    1. GoWebberGo(UNOC) says:

      If he still has Team Lotus in F1 then maybe he could market the Caterham by painting it Green and gold and putting Team Lotus on one side and Caterham on the other. That doesn’t break any rules and we clearly see that it is TEAM LOTUS ……………….. CATERHAM with that big 7 on the front.

      Maybe the top level of each car in the range could be the TEAM LOTUS version….. could be great marketing

      1. Rudy Pyatt says:

        +1 on this.

      2. Adam Tate says:

        Agreed on the + 1

  28. Paul H says:

    Good move by Fernandes to cover his options and as you say the lower segment sports car is the traditional Lotus area and is where there will be a considerable market in the far east. I honestly think that Fernandes understands the ethos behind Lotus far better than the current Lotus Group. That said there is a heck of a lot of infrastructure to put in place, quality to improve, output to increase at Caterham to get it up to a level which will be useful to him. But best of luck with it as I feel it’s a far more viable venture than the current Lotus malarky. Be odd seeing a non-7 Caterham though.

  29. Olivier says:

    I am loving Tony’s supermoves :) Add a little Mike to the mix and the new Lotus Seven will be a hell of a car!

    Bahar is way off the mark with the new Lotus. He is trying too hard to be like Ferrari. Tony is so much more in tune with the original Lotus ethos. Lotus 7 will soon give the big guys a run for their money!

    I’ve noticed that Caterham’s new SP300R is being developped with Lola … -> http://www.caterham-spr.com/

  30. David says:

    I grew up with dreams of the Lotus Europa and “Super 7″. Fascinating analysis of a very appealing strategy — potentially!

  31. Rory S. Brown says:

    I think this is a great move by Tony and I hope he wins the legal case against Group Lotus. It would be really great if Tony can truly make the Caterham an affordable car. In Canada the car is way over priced for what you get. Perhaps adding a factory in Malaysia could bring the price down for the North American market.

  32. JD says:

    The next step is to get Heikki into Q2 in a dry qualifying session!

  33. Duncan says:

    I have to go with the majority. It sounds like a great move for both Caterham and The F1 team. Fernandes seems to have a very sound business plan and seems to be able to integrate things together very well. He also, unlike Bahar, seems to know the value of effective communications. Even if he loses the court case I can see him winning long-term through what appears to be some strong business accumen.

  34. I think this is a brilliant move! I was one who said last year that Tony should probably best drop the whole Lotus thing and think of his own branding….. well this is better than I thought. I’ve always wanted a Caterham, it’s on my list of 10 things to do before I die, and this has got me even more excited to do it.

  35. kmo says:

    Am I the only one who confuses Danny Bahar with Dani Behr?

  36. Brian says:

    I laughed when I heard this – Tony Fernandes has come up with a brilliant strategic move which no-one second-guessed; taking over Caterham surely has added spice as the maker of the “once Lotus” 7.

  37. kowalsky says:

    i see it as a good idea. But isn’t it sad that f1 engines are going so down in size that can be put in a small sports car? I like the car idea, but i hate the way f1 has to go to be able to achieve that.

    1. k9major says:

      You do know that BMW utilised standard road car blocks in their turbo engines back in the eighties? Secondhand ones at that. Small capacity, forced induction power plants, made from recycled materials? Well ahead of the game there then!!

      1. Andy C says:

        Wow. I didnt actually realise that. Any websites for the details.

        Thats amazing…

      2. k9major says:

        I think this covers the basics, but doesn’t mention the ‘special’ treatment the blocks received courtesy of the mechanics! http://www.research-racing.de/bmwturbo.htm

      3. kowalsky says:

        i know, and i saw them race. But those were 1400bhp engines. Do you think they are going to be that powerfull in 2013? F1 isn’t searching for performance, it’s going to a place i don’t like.

      4. k9major says:

        I think you make a very good point here, but it could be argued that the cars of that era were the high water mark in terms of searching for performance. The teams simply got too good at finding it and since then it’s been about looking in smaller and smaller envelopes to claw back performance. F1 isn’t going to a place I like too much either, but it’s hard to see the alternative.

  38. Alexx says:

    All Fernandez does is

    ‘serve up yesterdays leftovers as todays specials!

    1. Andy C says:

      not sure what this is adding to the debate moderators?

  39. Jonathan Lodge says:

    I wonder if Tony would have bothered with LOTUS if he had been a native English speaker.

    Did no one tell him about the acronym… Loads Of Trouble, Usually Serious

    It has certainly given him a load of trouble!

    I do hope he wins the court case and Caterham seems a great step forward whichever way the case goes.

  40. Ben G says:

    Caterham: a car using an old Lotus design, but not a Lotus.

    Team Lotus: a team using an old Lotus design, but not a Lotus.

    Caterham’s the perfect choice for someone who really wanted to buy Lotus on the cheap, but couldn’t.

    Ps – I never saw James Bond driving a Caterham. The point being, Colin Chapman never saw Lotus’ just for people who “couldn’t afford a Porsche” (great marketing statement, Tony). The Esprit was launched as a proper supercar, so it isn’t correct to say Lotus has always been in the lightweight sportscar market.

    1. GoWebberGo(UNOC) says:

      Almost always is probably correct term.

      Chapmans idea of building a formula 1 car was to make it as light as possible.

      Even if a part broke he would still make it thiner, smaller and lighter

  41. BMG says:

    Is this because he will loose the pending court case? He only has the rights to racing name “Team Lotus” will he be able to use it for his commercial interests?
    Off topic James, will India be ready in time. There track record for completing construction work for sporting events are not very good.

    1. James Allen says:

      No he cannot use Team Lotus for anything outside F1 as I understand it. There was a case a few years ago where David Hunt managed to retain the mark for Team Lotus in F1

      1. jonrob says:

        That’s what I understood too James, however he has registered a few new company names recently including Team Lotus Hotels, Team Lotus Bikes,Jets, Merchandising, Enterprises, all of which are outside the original David Hunt owned registration.

  42. Rich C says:

    Brilliant!

  43. alvin says:

    i truly hope that tony wins the court case. tony has done a lot for malaysian and his airlines really makes it possible for many ppl to travel because of the low price while on the other hand, GL or proton caused the price of cars in Malaysia to be so expensive as Government protects local manufacturer. if Bahar’s plan do not work out, who is gonna foot the bill for the loan? http://biz.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2011/4/16/business/8495583&sec=business
    ultimately it is still the government and the taxpayers’ money. just penny for your thought on who to support….

    1. Andy C says:

      I dont think for a moment Tony has given up on buying Lotus.

      Dany Bahar is taking incredible risks with someone elses money (the malaysian banks and indirectly the state), and I suspect Fernandes will be around to pick up the pieces at the end.

      What we have to remember is there are world class people at Lotus in Norfolk (the cars division just to be clear). I hope things work out ok for them.

  44. Barry says:

    Caterham have been constrained by a lack of investment yet their market potential is enormous. If Tony Fernandes gets this right there could be big rewards.
    But why is nobody speculating about Lola?
    Their joint development on the SP/300.R may give a clue as to what might be an even more ambitious plan.

  45. Ohm says:

    I thought Tony doesn’t own Group Lotus? How would he be able to make an offer to the Malaysian government if he doesn’t own it?

    1. GoWebberGo(UNOC) says:

      THe Malaysian Government OWNS Proton which in turn owns Group Lotus.

      What James is saying is that Tony Fernandes’ plan was/is to make an offer to the Malaysian government (aka…. I am willing to buy Group Lotus from you for X million Malaysian currency).

      He would then own the fledging car company and hopefully build it up like he has done with the then failing airline Air Asia

    2. Zaman says:

      Hence the reason why he needs to make an offer. Why would Tony need to make an offer for something he already owns?

    3. Ohm says:

      Ahh I see, got a little confused lol. Thanks guys :)

  46. Stefanos says:

    I would not expect that legal victory for Fernandes would be anything more than a very handsome compensation. No judge would allow two companies to retain the same name due to a legal dispute (bar for some exceptions from WWII, where the Americans took control of German companies’ US operations).

    So, Caterham it is, then. Clearly, he needs a brand to sell.

    As far as affordable sportscars go, Caterham simply makes track day go-karts. One cannot park the car outdoors on a rainz day, as it will become full of water. It will require hunderds of millions of development, before it can even reach the stage of an Exige/Elise and even more to become a useable car. The current chassis is too simple. Porsche and Ferrari spent 20-30 years making usable sportscars and have been copied by most of their peers. Lotus is going down the same route in realization that a sports car needn’t be a second or third car, as this becomes too high a commercial hurdle. Caterhams and Exige/Elise tend to be bought as toys. (Having said that, the $100-200K sports car market is already fairly crowded and competitive.)

    I am not sure that Fernandes really knows what he is doing. Ambition and hard work are not enough, though he seems to think so. Anyway, good luck!

    1. Rich C says:

      - No judge would allow two companies to retain the same name due to a legal dispute…

      Sure they would, if they were just *slightly different.

      - Caterham simply makes track day go-karts.

      What are you talking about? Its a Lotus super 7 in all but name!

      - One cannot park the car outdoors on a rainz day, as it will become full of water.

      Oh, please, don’t be daft.

      - It will require hunderds of millions of development…

      No, it’s *already “developed”. Its a successful, existing, “back to basics” sports car.

      - The current chassis is too simple.

      Why? Because it *works?

      - Porsche and Ferrari spent 20-30 years making usable sportscars…

      They’ve been at it a lot longer than that! “Usable?” You mean to take Grandma and the kids to the grocery? Get a grip!

      - Lotus is going down the same route in realization that a sports car needn’t be…

      Which Lotus?

      - I am not sure that Fernandes really knows what he is doing.

      I would bet money he knows more about it than *you appear to!

  47. Just A Bloke (Martin) says:

    Caterham could provide a cracking “entry level” sportscar imagine a sort of 7 for the 21st century perhaps something on the lines of the Vauxhall VX220/Elise penned by Mike Gascoyne powered by an “F1″ derived 1.6 turbo pushing out say 250/300 ! Racing really would improve the breed.

    The link to Lotus heritage is one the eye for Proton. Best of luck to team Norfolk……;)

  48. Just A Bloke (Martin) says:

    What a cracking “Plan B”

    Well done to Tony and the team

    ;)

  49. DonSimón says:

    Always dreamed of racing super-7s, one day I’ll make it a reality.

  50. Martin says:

    Hi James,

    A minor point, but it was always said that Enzo Ferrari built road cars to fund his racing cars. Racing is what made Enzo tick, and from memory he had plenty of derogatory things to say about road car customers. The old saying that you bought a Ferrari engine and the car came free has some truth to it as the engines formed the basis of sports cars.

    When did it change? Probably before I was born (1977), but after the Fiat takeover. Ferraris’ range of cars expanded and homologation cars stopped being made.

    Cheers,

    Martin

  51. Andy c says:

    Worth looking at the following link then Isn’t

    http://caterhamformula1.com/Index.html

    1. Phil C says:

      This came up on Twitter, where another journalist pointed out the mis-spelling of Sonagol, and the use of an old logo. I then did a WHOIS search, and it came up with the name of an individual living in Warminster. A quick Streetview check confirmed that this was a private address, and not that of a major business. To top it all, it was registered on April 22nd, the day after the Caterham link broke.

      Hoax site, cyber squatter, who knows, but in no way linked to Team Lotus

      1. Andy c says:

        Indeed. And I fell for it just like the guys I read it on. That individual might be getting a call today ;-)

  52. Graham says:

    I love this new twist in the Lotus saga.. IMO, not only does it show that Fernandez can outwit Behar, but it also gives some really, really exciting scope for the future..
    The Caterham 7 is motoring perfection, I’ve been driving them for 8 years or so, and nothing is more fun as a purists car. Meanwhile, the Elise is a brilliant hardcore all rounder, a great little toy that gives so much for those of us that can’t afford an Italian, but want more induviduality than you can get from a Boxster or S2000.
    Overall, the 7 and the Elise are the 2 best roadgoing products Lotus have ever made (IMO). Behar wants to shun all that, for the ego trip of trying to sell Evoras and higher to people who want a Ferrari or 911 badge on their car. Tony Fernandez can now cater (sorry) for the market that Lotus should have never left – affordable British sports cars. Half of the internet was dreaming about a Caterham version of the Elise, now we might just get one…

    PS – with a N/A F1 derived I4 perhaps? That revs to 10k with intervals of c. 10k miles? Oh go on tony, I’ll buy you a pint =)

    1. Andy c says:

      I’ve got caterham on my list for next 2nd car so I fully understand where you’re coming from.

      I have a few friends who’ve owned them and they’re fantastic (particularly round a track).

      I must say though, I looked at the Elise when I ended up with the boxster and the Elise was so uncomfortable it made your ears bleed ;-)

      The other option I’m looking at is a gt40 replica (check out tornado sports cars). Better ring the bank manager and tell him to expect a kick in the …. ;-)

  53. Luca says:

    James,

    in your opinion who will win the legal battle between Lotus Group and Team Lotus?
    And anymore, fernandes has bought Caterham cars in order to prevent the “damage” due to te lost of lotus brand? So ne next year renaul will be Lotus and Lotus Caterham?

    Thanks a lot.

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s a question of the law and anything can happen in a court. Hard to say, really. I’ve heard both sides. It’s down to the judge to decide how the agreements from the past stand up today

      1. Luca says:

        Thank you very much!…and do you know (approximately) the date of Hight Court’s sentence?

  54. Wouter Luyten says:

    James,
    Sorry to hijack this topic, didn’t find a way to contact you directly.

    I have dug up some 10 year old footage ad am SO thrilled about it.

    It’s Thierry Boutsen testing in his Ligier. The part that excites me is that we can hear his breathing and even his heartrate.

    I’ve been telling people for years, that driving an F1 car is hard work. And I even managed to convince some sceptics, by showing them this video (on VHS unfortunately).

    Is there any way, you think, we could have this kind of imagery from current drivers?
    I would find it spectacular to hear more of this.

    It really impresses people to HEAR the heartrate going up in fast corners, much more then telling them “well, on average their heartbeat is 160 during the race”.

    Best regards

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwkxJvXTpxU

    1. Rich C says:

      You know what I noticed? He’s holding his breath in the corners!! Yes! Listen to it again!

  55. JohnBt says:

    After awhile your desires cannot be caged. From all the news Fernandes has proven he deserves more than Bahar, period. Look at all the support he’s received from the postings.

    Well, he received the Commander of the order of the British Empire from the Queen.

  56. chris bentham says:

    good article,i hadnt quite sussed what was going on until he bought caterham,thing is,for what fernandes is trying to achieve(cheap sports cars)the caterham brand could be just as effective,so why all the hassle,fernandes can leave lotus alone and achieve what he wants through caterham anyway..??

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