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Team Lotus confirms Caterham acquisition
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Team Lotus confirms Caterham acquisition
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Apr 2011   |  12:45 pm GMT  |  52 comments

The consortium behind Team Lotus today confirmed that it has acquired the Caterham road car business.

Team owner Tony Fernandes has indicated that “we will link the Formula 1 team and the car company close together. Then we will look at building technology links and marketing links.”


He said that adding the road car platform to the F1 programme is where he wanted to be 12 months ago with Group Lotus, but that came unstuck due to a clash with Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar. “Now it’s our baby and we will build from a solid base into something in the same vein as Air Asia,” he said.

It has emerged that Fernandes was approached by Caterham’s owner Ansar Ali, who is a former Lotus executive, shortly before Christmas last year about buying the company and the deal was done quickly. Ali had previously led a management buyout of Caterham in 2005. He will stay on in his existing management role at the company.

Caterham will continue to build the iconic 7 but will also add new models to the range. There has been a lot of talk about the spirit of Colin Chapman, the Lotus founder whose widow and son aligned themselves with Group Lotus at around the time Fernandes and Ali started negotiating.

Fernandes is trading off the heritage of Team Lotus, which he bought from David Hunt last Autumn and not the heritage of Lotus cars. He believes that Group Lotus, which is a sponsor of the Renault F1 team, does not have the right to trade on Team Lotus’ heritage.

Ali is very careful to say that the Lotus heritage is not important to Caterham, “My honest belief is no, the legacy doesn’t make that much difference to Caterham. But the historical relevance of the Seven is important.”

He added that, “I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the (Team) Lotus connection was attractive to both of us. I think the credibility is there and it reinforces the providence and the raison d’etre of the acquisition.”

Although the use of the Lotus name is the subject of a legal battle, which Fernandes’ side launched last year against Group Lotus and which could be resolved with a judgement in the next couple of weeks, Fernandes is now moving into road car territory via Team Lotus Enterprises.

“Caterham has a unique place at the heart of the motoring world,” said Fernandes. “As well as being proudly and staunchly British, it has an enviable and uniquely unblemished reputation within the industry for performance, handling and engineering excellence.

“Caterham Cars has remained wholly faithful to Colin Chapman’s philosophy of ‘less is more’, and the DNA of the original Seven can still be traced to the newest additions to Caterham’s product offering.

“It is already a successful business with sales across Europe, Japan, Australia and the Middle East, and under the guidance of the existing management team, we now have all the ingredients and the launch pad to further evolve that spirit and take Caterham to new exciting horizons with innovative products and greater global brand exposure.”

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52 Comments
  1. Ben G says:

    I thought the Team Lotus name could only be used in F1, not as a rival to Group Lotus in manufacturing.

    Still, it all shows how silly Group were not to settle with David Hunt years ago.

  2. ian says:

    Odd for him to want to continue promoting a rival sports car companies name?

  3. David McVey says:

    I think Fernandes is hedging his bets a little, but who can blame him. If the court battle doesn’t go his way he has a perfect opportunity to salvage the situation by running as Team Caterham F1. He has already registered the following domain names just in case.

    Sonangolcaterham.com
    Sonangolcaterhamf1.com
    Sonangolcaterhamteamlotus.com

    He either suspects he might lose the court case or he’s warmed to the Caterham venture enough to throw everything at it ASAP. Maybe he’s just sick of the politics and wants to get on with his plan and who cares what badge it carries.

    Whatever, he’s an asset to F1 and I like him. Williams could do with someone like him to mastermind their revival as it looks frighteningly likely that Team Lotus could be embarrassing team Willy very soon, can’t wait for the raft race!

    1. GoWebberGo(UNOC) says:

      I’m guessing that given the jury is still out (quite literally) in the court case he is hedging his bets.

      If he wins he will use Sonangolcaterhamteamlotus.com

      If he loses he will use
      Sonangolcaterham.com

      Plus it’s good practice to cover your basis, hence why Bernie doesn’t just own formula1.com but also f1.com . He doesn’t need both but it’s to stop someone from creating the later and using it to harass. Google has had to buy out some names with this problem once it got out of hand.

      For example, and I believe there are laws against this now.

      If he had sonangaolcaterhamteamlotus.com and I bought teamlotus.com then I could have bought it for 6 pence (or whatever the going rate is currently… 10 bucks or so?), and then wave it infornt of fernandes face and offer it to him for $10k, at which point he risks losing people to my website offering something similiar or distracting his user base, he then has to buy it from me for an inflated price.

      I believe sqwatting is now illigal but it is still smart to cover your bases and it’s also good practice to insure whether you win or lose you are covered, better to have won and have a couple of domains extra than to have lost and then have to go around buying inflated domains to rename the team.

      1. Peter Wells says:

        It only costs around £25 to register a .com domain name for 2 years so on top of a 40mil budget or a 3 mil purchase price you could register 100 names to cover your bases and it would still be small change

      2. GoWebberGo(UNOC) says:

        Thanks I know it is 10 bucks or so for a .com.au but I wasn’t quite sure for a .com

    2. jonrob says:

      Tony has also registered several additional Team Lotus names, Hotels, Jets etc

      It is a brilliant move and should wind up Bahar since everyone knows it is really Lotus Seven and no doubt some reporter will refer to it as such in an interview at some point.

  4. CJM says:

    If TF can keep the Team Lotus monika (which looks fairly likely) and then associate it with Caterham (eg Caterham Lotus) then that nicely evens out the playing field in terms of inadvertant publicity – both groups will have Lotus road cars. (One will be a Proton, the other a Caterham – seems like a no-brainer to me!)

  5. Landon says:

    Maybe we’ll see Team Lotus-Caterham in the future?

  6. jmv says:

    Clever guy, this Fernandes. You gotta hand it to him: eversince his entry in F1 he’s been moving forward all the time.. getting things done…

    Speaking of getting things done: Fernandes would be an excellent successor of Bernie!

    1. David Turnedge says:

      A Bernie replacement? Oh yes! He’s cut from the same cloth!

    2. Chapor says:

      I am in support of that… :-)

  7. Paul says:

    was at the event today, TF was quite inspirational I thought, talking a lot about dreams and people

    also let slip about a closed body, affordable sports car being on the cards, he was undecided on what the branding will be in terms of the F1 team

    the F1 car was bit of a let down, didn’t run at anywhere near full chat

    1. Prisoner Monkeys says:

      “TF was quite inspirational I thought, talking a lot about dreams and people”

      Sounds over-written – like everything else they put out.

    2. declan says:

      Great to hear that a closed body option is on the cards. I can respect the drivability/responsiveness of a Caterham but I’m personally not a fan of the look.

      This is probably going to go against a lot of traditional ethos, but I’d like to see a tie up between Caterham and Tesla. They could really carve a foot hold in the modern affordable roadster with a hybrid engine.

  8. Adam Taylor says:

    This is brilliant for the British motor industry. A British based team potentially racing under a British based manufacturer. They have just acquired a new fan

    1. ian says:

      Same applies at Enstone.

      1. Thonas says:

        The boys at Enstone have a SPONSOR called Lotus, it’s completely different. All smoke and mirrors from Bahar.

      2. Ben G says:

        Just as Fernandes’ team will have a sponsor called Caterham?

        According to your rules, Tony won’t be able to call his F1 cars ‘Caterhams’, because that is not the name of the chassis.

        So if he loses the case, or decides to drop his Lotus fantasy, what will he call his F1 cars?

      3. GoWebberGo(UNOC) says:

        Slight difference though…..

        Renault are a team sponsored by Group Lotus a completely seperate entity.

        Caterham is owned by Team Lotus. The sponsorship is purely to promote something he already owns not something that he is paid to promote.

        Caterham is like AirAsia in that it appears due him owning AirAsia not because AirAsia paid him a few million to stick their logos on the car.

        If the Constructor is Lotus then it is a Lotus. If it is changed to Caterham then it becomes a Caterham.

        THe Renault is currently not a Lotus because it’s constructors title is Renault.

        The reason why the OP is talking up the link as a manafacturer linked to a team because Renault is PAID to PROMOTE Group Lotus.

        CATERHAM is OWNED by TEAM LOTUS.

        i.e. The link between Team Lotus and Caterham is stronger as they are owned by the same man as opposed to simple sponsorship. Although is appears that GL and Renault are slightly more than mere sponsors…. maybe Sponsors with benifts is a nice way of describing the arrangement

      4. GoWebberGo(UNOC) says:

        Except for the Renault bit

      5. Daniel Hoyes says:

        Renault and Lotus are two seperate entities in the real world, however you want to label them in the Enstone team (though I think owner and sponsor covers it at the moment).

        As Fernandes has just acquired the Caterham brand, they are therefore the same entity just two different brands. How can the same entity be both sponsor and owner?

        The two situations are completely different.

  9. Richard says:

    As an ex Caterham racer I like the sound of Caterham F1! Caterhams are just about the most raced car in the world so there are thousands of ex and current racers who will have affinity to the brand. All we need is for the F1 team, whatever it is called, to become a serious challenger.

  10. PAD says:

    I think Tony F is thinking ahead to the result of the court case – and has got the best result for whatever the judge says. Think about it; if he loses he will ask the other F1 teams and FIA to change his team name to Caterham F1 – all will be more than happy to approve the change as they don’t want any memories of the court case.

    If however he wins there is no way he will want to continue to use the Lotus name to advertise another company so he will change the team name to Caterham F1.

    The Lotus name will soon be history again.

    1. GoWebberGo(UNOC) says:

      Not really

      Catherham 7 = Lotus 7.

      He has bought part of Lotus pretty much and if he wins then I don’t think Lotus Cars will be going anywhere soon akka ready for the buy in

  11. Stk says:

    Great move by Tony.. There will clearly be huge synergies between the F1 team and Caterham whatever name they end up operating under. The F1 team has already earned plenty of respect amongst fans and the established teams and the caterham 7 has a unique place amongst road/race cars..

    I expect Tony will be able to leverage the two companies perfectly.. My bet is that when the new engines arrive in f1 in 2013 team Lotus will switch back to Cosworth and at the same time anounce a new cosworth powered Caterham.. Perhaps Tony will even buy a stake in Cosworth to have control over all aspects of his F1 team and road cars.. Imagine Red Bull Maclaren and Williams using customer engines while a new Team Lotus-Caterham-Cosworth team using their own!!!

    1. ACB says:

      The new engine specs connection to Caterham is an excellent observation.

  12. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    James, have you been able to gain more of an idea why Hunt and the Chapmans really decided to back Group Lotus?

    Their stance has never been properly explained. Has money crossed hands at any point?

    Best wishes

    1. James Allen says:

      Good question. I’ll do something on it once the judge makes his decision

    2. Billy says:

      Clive Chapman naturally supports Group Lotus due to Group Lotus being the closest continuation of his farthers legacy.
      Clive’s press release several months ago confirmes that position. There is no need for him to reiterate the stance.

      1. GoWebberGo(UNOC) says:

        They intially supported Lotus in F1 before changing.

        We know that Group Lotus has been keen to ‘buy’ other people on their side.

        Alesi for came out of the wood work to call Group Lotus’ effort the real Lotus in F1 and continued on walking into a job testing/developing the T125 or whatever its called (the F1 style car developed by Group Lotus).

        Mansell and Brundle both have made comments the former more so that equate with Group Lotus being the real Lotus and both have sons play racing driver looking to gain ranks. Mansell has said it, Brundle I think it was more passing while being interviewed somewhere earlier this year.

        Autosport (the website and magazine) has shown a bit of bias and I believe something has happened behind the scenes.

        And after all that there are questions of why Group Lotus only got into F1 themselves after Fernandes asked got his team in (due to Toyota pulling out) and asked for license.

        One would have thought thT if group lotus really wanted to be in it and was just ‘inspired’ by Fernandes that they would have sponsored a team before and applied for a team license competing with Fernandes.

        And then why when peopple are looking for lightness and efficiency and F1 is moving that way does the manfacturer centred around the philosphy of adding lightness suddenly go and launch 5 new cars all at once most of which are against the manfacturers moto.

        Sure expanding the range maybe, buting completely changing the rnage and outlaying quite a few cars especially for a small manafacturer seems bizar. I can’t recall Aston Martin or Masterati or even big manafacturers like BMW and Fiat launching so many new cars at once, and they are massive manafacturers with billions to play with

      2. GoWebberGo(UNOC) says:

        Found the bit about Autosport I was refering to. Copied from F1Fanatic

        “Last month Autosport announced Group Lotus’s deal with Renault with a front cover splash unambiguously headed “The real Lotus is back”. This was followed a month later by a 20-page spread on Group Lotus’s motor racing plans which referred to Team Lotus as “1 Malaysia Racing Team”.”

        Posted on the 26th of January by Kieth

      3. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

        I don’t think the statement was bought by the public. It was about as convincing as one of those politician’s statements when they resign to spend more time with their family.

        They gave Fernandes Chapman’s cap one year and then when Group Lotus come along they decide that Team Lotus should be confined to history.

        Something doesn’t seem quite right here. Either Group Lotus has entinced the Chapman family and Hunt with some sort of leverage, or Fernandes has done something naughty and has made people feel p’ssed off.

        When the judgment is published we are bound to see some kind of lack of integrity on someone’s part.

      4. ACB says:

        Yes, quite Clive gave Tony all sorts of love until Bahar stepped into the picture. I’d say follow the money. The Chapman family got a better offer and took it. Nothing wrong with that but now calling Fernandes and Team Lotus illitimate is specious. They wouldn’t have been using the Lotus name without tacit approval from the Chapman family.

      5. Rich C says:

        Since the ‘family’ switched sides after they announced Proton was going to build them that museum, it is self-evident that their support was bought and paid for.

        And any “continuation of his father’s legacy” would involve designing and racing Lotus F1 cars, not *sponsoring some other manufacturer’s F1 team, or building some museum!

        But, you are correct in *one thing: there is no need for ‘the family’ to reiterate their press release – we recognize BS when we see it!

      6. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

        I wond£r what mad£ th£m chang£ th£ir mind$….?

      7. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

        In any case, why should we even care. The family have no rights in this and have not plugged any money or effort into the Team Lotus revival.

        Just like the self righteous owners of chocolate company Green & Black – they sold to Cadbury and if Kraft now want to screw the brand and have it churning out bubble gum flavoured yankee candy…they have no grounds for interfering.

  13. Marc says:

    I say well done Tony! Keeping one length ahead of his rivals. A great strategic initiative and relevant to what F1 might look like in the years to come. In my opinion it’s an intelligent and professional move.

  14. TG says:

    I actually think Bahar’s got it right and is really on to something with his plan to upscale Lotus to be the new Ferr…..
    …no, sorry, I couldn’t keep it up with a straight face. He’s rooted.

  15. Billy says:

    Having returned from Duxford today, I cannot help but feel uneasy regarding Tony Fernandes version of Team Lotus.

    The Caterham cars purchase is a superb move, don’t get me wrong.

    But he speaks of Team Lotus heritage, a heritage of which he has had no part of, but he trades off of as if it were his own.
    “standing on the shoulders of giants” he may think he is. But does he realise you cannot purchase those shoulders with just a name.

    1. Paul m says:

      I do agree with you but I do think the way he jas run the team is very respectible, very much in the Lotus ‘spirit’

    2. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

      Why not? The Germans bought mini, the Indians bought Land Rover. Both are making a success of leveraging off heritage in which they played no part.

    3. Rich C says:

      >But he speaks of Team Lotus heritage, a heritage of which he has had no part of…

      And Danny B did? There is no TL Heritage at Proton! They are merely *sponsoring another manufacturer’s team!

  16. Rudy Pyatt says:

    Smart. Powerful smart.

    I can see the publicity stunt of putting an F1 engine into a suitably modified 7 – and sooner versus later. Oooohaaaah.

    1. ACB says:

      Would that it were a Ford.

  17. Ben says:

    Group Lotus, Team Lotus. Despite all previous explanations…my brain hurts.

  18. jonrob says:

    Whilst this is great news, part of it does not make sense to me.
    Tony bought the Team Lotus brand from David Hunt. That brand (that Hunt owned) was for use only in F1, not in any other formulae. GL had the rights to all other formulae except F1. So now even if Tony wins the original case, and retains the right to have Team Lotus in F1 the judgement will have had to go a lot further than the simple demarcation of brand names. Only if GL are stripped of all rights to mention the word “racing” can Tony’s new registrations at companies house make any sense.
    Originally David hunt had said that the was taking action against GL as well, this may have now changed in view of the reported falling out with Tony caused by one of them either asking for more money or trying to get the TL rights for less, something we never saw the truth of before the court case.

    In any event Tony has far more chance of selling thousands of Caterham 7s worldwide than Bahar has of even getting his 5 new cars into production. (before bankrupting Lotus Cars, Proton and several Malaysian banks) His statement that “I’m not a car guy” will prove very true.

    1. ACB says:

      It is my understanding that at this point Fernandes is fighting to not lose the money accorded him for competing in the 2010 season. Deligitimsing his team’s name may cause an issue there even if he intends to change the name to Caterham or whatever. Sauber had a similar issue last year.

      1. ACB says:

        I would agree that 7 sales are going to take a jump. The posh Lotus line… well that’s quite another thing isn’t it?

  19. Rich C says:

    Proton’s scheme of sponsoring their way into racing for the promotional aspects will most likely work better in Indy cars.

    Their new formula involves a common rolling chassis which you can then tart up and power however you like.

    And Indy Cars have almost never been about the manufacturer, so “Specials” are common. We’ll see a “Lotus Special” or something, painted in proper Lotus green and yellow no doubt.

  20. ACB says:

    I think this is an excellent move by Fernandes. Even if he didn’t have a Formula One team this would still be a great aquisition, Caterham sales are good and the company carries no debt. Caterham have had racing academies for some time, they are the quintissential club racer, so no one has to take a second to explain to 7 owners about Formula One. Caterham owners can breathe easily knowing that Fernandes isn’t going to go all “Bahar” on them and change their beloved marque into something that it isn’t. And as someone already posted here the prospect of a four cylinder engine specification for 2013 holds out the prospect of a product link unlike anything anyone else on the paddock could give. Perhaps this could bring Ford back in as a sponsor or engine supplier.

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