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Lunch with Dany Bahar; what is Group Lotus’ long term future in F1?
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Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Jun 2011   |  8:38 am GMT  |  106 comments

On Friday I had lunch with Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar in London, along with journos from Reuters, the Telegraph and Autosport. It was the first opportunity to speak to Bahar since the High Court judgement over the use of the Lotus name in Formula 1.


Although the judge upheld Group Lotus withdrawing the licence it issued to Tony Fernandes’ 1 Malaysia Group to use the Lotus name in F1, the main judgement did not go the way Bahar and Group Lotus had hoped, with the judge upholding Tony Fernandes’ right to use the name Team Lotus in F1. Fernandes bought the rights to Team Lotus after receiving notice of the withdrawal of the licence last summer.

Group Lotus has appealed that part of the ruling and there is a preliminary hearing next Wednesday. The appeal will be heard in the Autumn with three judges. Until then we will continue to have two Lotus entities in F1.

Bahar has an ambitious seven year plan to develop the Lotus range, backed with £500 million of investment, some from the Malaysian government, around £250 million from banks in Asia and the rest set against income from later years of the plan. The F1 programme, which sees Lotus acting as a title sponsor but with an option to acquire equity in the team at the end of 2012, is a marketing programme; a way to get the Lotus brand and message to a global audience at a fraction of the cost of an advertising campaign.

Since the Spanish Grand Prix the Lotus branding has been more prominent on the black and gold Renault cars.

Bahar didn’t have any particular message on Friday, other than to say that he’s very happy with the way awareness has increased since doing the deal with Renault team and is confident that Group Lotus will succeed in the appeal. He’s prepared to play the long game. You get the feeling that he’s not in love with F1, but sees its marketing benefits. If the appeal goes against Lotus, you get the feeling that the programme will need to be reviewed.

It’s a weird situation; one the one hand you can see why Group Lotus would want to own all the marks associated with its name, but on the other hand, if Group Lotus pulled out of F1, they would continue to get extensive brand exposure via Fernandes’ team and at no expense. But there would always be a central confusion, as Fernandes’ entity would be nothing to do with Group Lotus, which would have no control or influence over its activities.

Interestingly, Bahar seems to be taking the view that the current Concorde Agreement negotiations are likely to stall, leading to no new agreement before the deadline of December 2012. Either way he has options whether to carry on in F1 beyond 2012 or to take a different route, depending on the outcomes of the appeal and the Concorde negotiations.

It was very noticeable that he doesn’t want the battle with Tony Fernandes and the 1 Malaysia Group to be characterised as the clash of two egos. He wants to depersonalise it and gets very defensive when asked about Fernandes. In a classic body language tell, he folds his arms the moment Fernandes’ name is mentioned.

Asked about whether the recent court ruling had changed anything for him, Bahar said, “No, not at all. It is about branding, the branding of our Lotus brand, and it is about technology transfer. The naming issue is there unfortunately, but it doesn’t really affect us.”

The original plan was for Group Lotus to buy into the Genii owned Renault team and to change the name of the chassis to Lotus. To do this will require a majority decision in the F1 commission or the forfeit of the previous season’s prize money, which is a big hit financially and one that neither Lotus nor Genii would contemplate.

Bahar said that the therefore team will remain Renault at least until the end of 2012 and beyond that it depends on how things evolve on the appeal and the Concorde Agreement negotiations, “If we decide to go for the long term then renaming would be an issue, but at the moment it is out of the question so it is not something we are pursuing.”

Interestingly, as an aside and for what it’s worth, when you Google “Lotus F1″, Team Lotus comes up first, with Lotus Renault GP team fourth below Wikipedia and latest news.

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  1. Andrew says:

    You would expect Lotus to come first in the search results given that all Bahar has done is stick a badge on the Renault.

    It is interesting that he feels happy with their current exposure. It all feels like negative exposure to me. I personally feel the Lotus brand has been damaged by Bahar and the Lotus lifestyle that comes with the Brand no longer exists for me. They are just a corporate entity, not a pasionate manufacturer.

    Best outcome? Team Lotus bury Renault.

    1. Bill says:

      At least he has a brand that can get damaged. Rather than just puchasing the history of one.

      1. Marc says:

        BMW did a good job with Mini.

      2. unooc12 says:

        Really?

        THey have turned a manly BTCC racing, Rally Championship racing car into a cute icon bought by slightly richer than average 30+ yr old women.

        The BMW MINI isn’t mini in size or has the original mini character. It is just similiar looking and a bit bigger.

        I would buy an old Mini, not for road use, I’d be too scared, but I wouln’t buy a new MINI

    2. Michael says:

      Andrew, these comments hit the nail on the head for me. For Bahar this has only ever been a marketing scheme. His overall goal is to gain exposure for his brand so it can make more money at the consumer level. And what is Genii capital? An investment company. The main goal of this team’s management is merely to make money, and this is why they race on Sunday. They don’t deserve to be at the top with Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull.

      In stark contrast, Tony Fernandes has a passion for racing and winning. He wants his team to emulate Red Bull’s success and rise to the top. And from all external appearances, Tony doesn’t have Bahar’s slick used car salesman personality. Tony is the real deal, a guy you’d love to have lunch with and converse about F1. And I bet he doesn’t fold is arms when you mention Bahar’s name—he has nothing to be ashamed of!

      After Crashgate, I thought my opinion of Renault had hit rock bottom. But much to my surprise, Bahar and Genii’s involvement have made it even worse. Another important and historic piece of F1 history has made an ugly exit.

      1. Rich C says:

        Everyone has their own motives for getting into F1. You can’t really say one or the other is more “deserving.”

        With only a few exceptions, it’s pretty much *all marketing. There is also a category of ‘bored, rich playboys’ too. What about them?

        Funny you would clump RB – a drinks marketing company – in with McL & Fer, instead of with Lotus/Proton who at least make *cars.

      2. Michael says:

        @Rich C: “With only a few exceptions, it’s pretty much *all marketing.”

        Disagree. Every team without exception must market, but that doesn’t mean that marketing is the core value of every team.

        @Rich C: “Funny you would clump RB – a drinks marketing company – in with McL & Fer, instead of with Lotus/Proton who at least make *cars.”

        You’ve completely missed the spirit of my post, perhaps because you interpret F1 through the grid of marketing. Making cars has nothing to do with the connection between RBR, McLaren and Ferrari. These three teams love to race and win, and it shows.

      3. GQsm says:

        Great comment Michael. My thoughts exactly.

      4. Werner says:

        you are absolutely right Bill !

      5. Michael – You say that Lotus-Renault don’t deserve to be that the top with the likes of McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull because their team is solely a marketing exeercise.

        Ummmm, what is Red Bull Racing doing then? They were bought by a drinks company to market the drinks company. The head of the company doesn’t even attend races. His interest in the team is only to boost his brand.

        You criticise Lotus and Genii, and claim that they don’t deserve to be with the likes of Red Bull despite both being exactly the same!

      6. James Allen says:

        Also don’t forget that this team was world champion in 2006 – only five years ago.

      7. Michael says:

        thatscienceguy,
        I’d suggest that you refer to
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Bull_GmbH.
        Red Bull are certainly not *exactly* the same as Lotus and Genii as you say. They are heavily involved in all kinds of motorsport including automobiles (F1, WRC and NASCAR), motorcycles and airplanes. They sponsor hundreds of teams (especially extreme sports and motor sports) and own three. They also own five football teams and a hockey team! Red Bull loves sport and have demonstrated a tenacious commitment to rise to the top of any sport they compete in.

        I believe this is why Tony Fernandes invoked the Red Bull name, the point of my original post. They can’t be a historic team like Ferrari or McLaren, but they can strive to be a competitive, winning team like Red Bull.

        @James Allen: “Also don’t forget that this team was world champion in 2006 – only five years ago.”

        This is why I lamented the loss of important F1 history with Renault’s demise in my original post. What’s left of Renault of today is sadly far from the team that captured the title in 2006.

      8. Michael – and why does Red Bull have all those links? Brand promotion!

        You can’t criticise Lotus for promoting their brand and then say that Red Bull is different. They’re not! They’re exactly the same, they do all those things to promote the brand.

        At least Lotus are a car brand, and they’re getting into more and more motorsport of many different types. They may be doing it to promote their brand, but they’re also doing it to show that they, as a brand, are successful. It may well also be a way for them to develop technology to feed down into their road cars. I’d suggest that in the future they’ll be just as much into their racing as anyone else.

        I can’t see Red Bull feeding their racing tech down to their drinks. “Red Bull, now in an extra aerodynamic can!”

    3. Chris says:

      Best outcome? Ferandes realizes he will NEVER own lotus cars. Proton would rather give it away than sell it to him

      1. OBS says:

        They won’t have a choice when the recevers step in!

  2. Jason says:

    Can somebody PLEASE let me in on this story. What is the difference between Team Lotus, and Group Lotus?

    This story was VERY confusing to me, as i dont now the whole story. If someone can link me to the story, or give a short description, it would be appreciated. :)

    1. Forzaminardi says:

      Jason, basically, back in the day Colin Chapman separated Team Lotus (the racing team) from Lotus Cars (the car manufacturer). This continued after his death and during the 1980s, Lotus Cars (latterly renamed Lotus Group) was bought by, at different times, General Motors, Indonesian investors and most recently, Proton of Malaysia. While this was going on, Team Lotus (the racing team) remained independent under the ownership of the Chapman family until it was bought by a consortium led by Peter Collins in 1991. this set up continued until 1994 when Team Lotus entered administration. David Hunt then bought the intellectual and marketing rights to the name ‘Team Lotus’ and owned it until he sold them to Tony Fernandes last year. So basically Group and Team have been separate businesses and brands since day one, merely co-operating when owned by one entity and occassionally collaborating for marketing purposes afterwards.

      1. DMyers says:

        Slightly inaccurate re. David Hunt. He bought the team as a going concern in 1994. Johnny Herbert’s contract was sold to Tom Walkinshaw to raise revenue (which is why he raced for Ligier at Jerez and Benetton in the last two races), and he brought Mika Salo into the team for the last two races alongside Zanardi. He then did a deal with Pacific for them to race as Pacific Team Lotus in 1995, after Team Lotus didn’t have the funds to be able to build and race their 1995 car. He then continued, as you say, to own the rights to the Team Lotus name until he did his deal with TF.

    2. Quercus says:

      It’s a long story, Jason and that what Google’s for. Just google ‘Team Lotus lotus Renault disagreement’.

    3. young slinger says:

      Group Lotus manufactures sports cars and is now the title sponsor of Renault F1. Fernandes purchased the licence from Group Lotus to use the name ‘Lotus’ in F1, which was rescinded when Mr Bahr realised the power of the brand in F1. This is still the subject of litigation. (The ‘original’ Lotus brand, circa the great Colin Chapman, operated under both names hence the great legacy of Lotus Racing)

    4. SteveK says:

      Lotus agreed to let Lotus go racing in F1 provided Lotus let Lotus ok the design of any caps made with the Lotus name on them.
      When Lotus made some caps without Lotus knowing, Lotus were in breach of contract and Lotus decided to go into racing themselves.
      Because Lotus were no longer allowed to race as Lotus, they bought the rights to use the old Lotus name.
      Now Lotus are allowed to go racing as Lotus and Lotus are allowed to carry on but must now call themselves Lotus.

      1. CanadaGP says:

        Most consumers would not care that is why Group Lotus gets free publicity with Team Lotus. They s/d be paying Fernandes money – not suing him!

        The typical Lotus car buyer though w/d probably be a car enthusiast but regardless of the F1 naming mess if they have good products they can be successful. The thing is Bahar wants to move Lotus upmarket to Ferrari/McLaren territory so that’s why he thinks it needs the direct F1 connection.
        Although Lamborghini has no problem selling exotic cars w/out any F1 connection.

        Even though I am personally passionate about F1, as a businessman I don’t see it essential that Group Lotus be in F1. They might as well just pay Tony F. for the sponsorship. In fact, as G. Lotus moves upmarket they might want to partner w/Caterham for the lower end of the sports car market.

      2. James Allen says:

        I agree, the cost/benefit analysis is clear from a brand awareness point of view, but the logic of GL is that they find it intolerable not to own all the marks using their brand.

      3. Aaron James says:

        Thing is though James…they had their chance to buy it…and rejected it….

      4. young slinger says:

        Succinctly put!

  3. Fenris N says:

    Is he really that obvious about his body language? You’d think someone in his position would have looked into body language cues at least a little bit, both to better understand others and so as not to give out information unintentionally… o.O

    1. Rdw says:

      Was it unintentional?

  4. jmv says:

    i dont know bahar personally or professionally, but from what i have been reading many times from him… his interviews etc.. he always talks about “branding”.

    i dont think F1 is a simple branding exercise.. in the end F1 is about characters that put their stamp on the sport.

    looking at fernandes/gascoigne.. boy their drive and enthusiasm, resonates all through the paddock and inspires people to back the team lotus story. they were the first to bring the name back and that will remain forever.

    looking at bahar/lopez .. i have never seen a more boring and uninspired F1 combo leadership. for lopez to show his love of F1… his recent comments about kubica shows that he is not interested in the story of the sport.. the ups and downs, the tragedy in success… he is just mr. business platform or whatever his concept was…

  5. Bill says:

    Its all been a very sad state of affairs. When i found out the Lotus name was returning to F1 i was over the moon. But if i could have known how it was going to pan out I would have told them not to bother!
    Such a great British brand dragged through the mud (by both parties).

  6. David Hodge says:

    James, I appreciate this is your blog and therefore your title to the posting. I am just not sure that Mr. Bahar’s responses actually provide an answer to that question. What is Group Lotus’ longterm future in F1? Answer: We don’t know as it depends what happens on appeal and the Concorde Agreement 2012.

    1. Alex says:

      Wasn’t ‘Lotus Racing’ the name that was licenced to Tony and then withdrawn from him?

  7. Marc says:

    If Bahar is a marketing pro, then his marketing is pretty flakey. Apart from the engine, the Renault F1 brand has nothing to do with Renault car manufacturer. Genii is the owner… but does anyone really know what they want from F1? The JPS livery is not synonymous of the Lotus brand because it is marketed today in its’ traditional green and yellow. So they think a chassis will do the trick to legitimise the Lotus brand on the car. Gosh, this team is a branding mess. Is it a Renault? No, it’s a Lotus!… No, it’s a Renault!… I think the smart man here is Tony Fernandes; And that that he’s got Caterham, namely the Lotus Seven… Every single one of this Tony’s moves make sense.

    1. Harvey Yates says:

      To be fair, it is hardly unique for the badge on an F1 engine to have no connection with its design, manufacture or ownership.

      But I’m with you on the confusion. It is a sad state of affairs when one of the most historic of F1 names ends up like this. Reminds me of Brabham.

      Caterham actually makes the Caterham 7. It is far removed from the Lotus model. It’s a lovely little car but nothing to do with Lotus. He could do worse than rebrand his F1 team Caterham.

      It was a sad day when Lotus left Formula 1. It was even sadder when they returned.

    2. Chris says:

      How is fernandes smart here. he is promoting someone elses brand. he will never own lotus, so why is he running around with a team advertising another company and not his own

      1. Thomas says:

        Never is a very long time. Personally I wouldn’t be so sure.

        With a plan based purely on debt and future earnings five years out and going head to head with the likes of Porsche are big asks.

        Bahar has already dropped one of the new models from his plan!

    3. CARSON44 says:

      Read Tony Fernandes bio, I don’t think he has ever made a wrong move. If you must put your money on one horse in this Lotus race make that bet on Tony Fernandes.

  8. Quercus says:

    I don’t understand why Bahar doesn’t come to an agreement with Fernandes — or why he fell out with him in the first place; especially as Bahar doesn’t seem to be that passionate about F1.

    Looks to me like this was all about ego and control at first and now it’s about losing face.

    Strikes me that Fernandes is entrepreneurial, wily and pragmatic; while Bahar — for all his youth — is a plodder with the imagination of a corporate accountant. Bahar actually needs Fernandes’ skills but can’t bring himself to admit it. I suspect, on the other hand, that Fernandes would never say ‘no’ to a deal.

    1. Jo Torrent says:

      Tony Fernandez wants to buy Lotus Group and controls it and his strategy consists in continuing Lotus heritage of small relatively cheap sports cars.

      Bahar on the other hand wants to put Lotus in the Ferrari league with SuperExpensive SuperFast SuperPowerful cars.

      They don’t share views, how can they work together.

      1. Sebee says:

        Tell me again please why I would want to buy a Lotus that costs as much as a Ferrari?

      2. Rich C says:

        Because it would be way cool? ;p

      3. Right now, you wouldn’t.

        In five year’s time? Who knowa? If they got their marketing right and indeed produce supercars their niche customers want to buy than that’s a different story.

        It’s the type of question that requires a crytal ball for an answer.

  9. David says:

    Your Google results might be skewed by Google knowing something about your browsing tendencies (notice your location in the left-hand sidebar).

    I tried the same search in a browser that doesn’t “know” me, and got this result:

    http://i56.tinypic.com/2n9lrv7.jpg

    Team Lotus still trumps Lotus Renault, but they’re now nose-to-tail (as it were).

  10. Andy Carr says:

    James loved the google search at the end, great attention to detail. One small thing you might want to change as I expect you’re a perfectionist. In one of the paragraphs it reads “It’s a weird situation; one the one hand you can see why Group Lotus”… I think it’s meant to be “on the one hand”

    I just checked out the proposed 2012 F1 Calendar again… who do you think is most likely to be dropped? Turkey? Hungary? or possibly even delay AUstin until 2013?

    1. Andy Carr says:

      There is a certain irony in the fact that I made a typo in the above message. Obviously it’s Austin not AUstin.

      1. jonrob says:

        Both Au and AU in some doubt financially.

  11. Sethu says:

    A minor detail about google search results – they vary based on geography, personal search history, google account info and a variety of other factors. Basically this means that the order of results cannot be guaranteed to be same for different people. For me, the first result is from lotuscars.com which is related to Group Lotus.

  12. Neil Ford says:

    Anybody that’s British that keep’s knocking Group Lotus should be ashamed. It’s no surprise to me that the once esteemed British sports car sector has all but disappeared much in part because of sheer lack of British drive for continuing any legacy built from passion.

    So many people around the world dream of owning Ferrari’s, Porsche’s, Lamborghini’s , Maserati’s and kids have pictures of them all over their walls, why, because of what the brand stands for. Proton and Danny Bahar should be applauded for trying to do what so many Brits can’t be bothered to do. I’m British and I’m embarrassed. And before you knock Lotus as a kit car in comparison, go do some research on the quality of 1970’s and 80’s Italian sport cars. Group Lotus still have a strong reputation overseas and knowledge to boot. Does anyone recall the Evora beating all the competition to win EVO car of the year 2009! Think of what could be possible with Lotus cars back at the front of F1, GT racing, and a host of decent performance road cars.

    My wife is Malaysian and I currently live in KL and I can tell you Tony Fernandez has no care for the history of the Lotus brand. He has suggested this on many occasions. Why doesn’t anyone find it strange that unlike Virgin, he’s too worried to call it Air Asia F1 because if the team fails, hey, it’s only Lotus brand, so what.

    He purchased the rights to Team Lotus after losing the license form GL, what does this say about his ethics. Can’t get Lotus cars, buy Caterham. This is all about pure pride, remember this is the same guy that ‘Tweeted’ his offer to buy West Ham before picking up the phone to the owners! Even the Chapman family have now expressed their non-alliance with him.

    What is truly sad, is that Tony Fernandes had a real opportunity to make the average Malaysian truly proud by creating a true Malaysian F1 team.

    The only thing that people overseas do find strange is how much lack of passion and belief that actually seem to exist in Britain these days. And for those of you that keep supporting Team Lotus, you are basically supporting TF desire to watch Lotus Cars fail and he must be chuckling at how many Brits are supporting him in the process!

    1. jonrob says:

      On the contrary, Lotus Cars were one of my customers and I have a great affection for them. However it is painful seeing them fall into the hands of Bahar, whose first act was to get rid of many key people. His wild aspirations for Lotus Cars show a basic lack of understanding of the car market in general and the UK in particular. He will most likely bankrupt Group Lotus.
      Tony Fernandes originally wanted to work with Group Lotus, but Bahar arrived and put a stop to that.
      Tony may still be Lotus’s saviour when he buys the bankrupt group for £1 and gets them back to making British sports cars, instead of Bahar’s unsaleable ego trips, of course they may have to become a division of Caterham ? Cars then.

    2. Bill says:

      Well said Neil.

    3. DK says:

      Sounds like Mr. Baharu to me.

    4. Onyx says:

      100 % RIGHT!I cannot believe how blinkered people are to Fernandes…all he’s done is buy some history…and he’s doing a pretty poor job on the track too…oh and by the way do people not think Red Bull are in F1 for marketing reasons..

      1. Jason says:

        Of course they are. It is much cheaper than a marketing campaign. And also, they are winning all the time, which you cant put a price on. Winning in F1 makes it on the news worldwide.

    5. Werner says:

      I totally agree ! Nail on the head ! I am a Ferrari fan but have always loved Lotus. Why should someone else is able to use the brandname of a manufacture of road cars ? The iconic name Lotus does not deserve to be last on the grid, fighting agains HRT and Virgin.

    6. 0 Comes 1st says:

      Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. TF is not what he seems. Glad somebody said that.

      1. Chris says:

        Amen Neil. Finally a commenter that isnt singing from the fernandes is g.o.d songbook! He is not to be trusted. the court case showed this

    7. David Ryan says:

      “what does this say about his ethics”

      About the same as it says for Bahar terminating a contract prematurely over a T-shirt, really. Neither side has covered itself with glory in this debacle, but in Fernandes’ favour he has built a team up from scratch and demonstrated some affinity with Colin Chapman’s original ethos. Bahar, in contrast, has stuck the logo on a team which has changed hands at least three times and sees the Lotus name as little more than a logo or brand judging from this interview. The cars he seeks to make certainly have very little to do with Lotus as us in the UK understand it, and as chasing supercars has led many a British sportscar company to bankruptcy I feel we have good reason to be concerned.

      1. Neil Ford says:

        Can’t seem to reply to your last point 6 or 7 below so a little out of sync here, anyway….

        Ok, sorry, I should have said fitted the engine to the chassis but I think you got my point. Listen, I’m all for going green, I don’t eat meat and ride my bike, swim and run and race on a regular basis. I’m not suggesting scrapping cars like Elise and Exige, but to also utilise technical knowledge and expand sales opportunities to meet market trends. Facts for you Dave: 2010 saw an increase of 171% sales of Rolls Royce. Ferrari saw an increase of 50% in China and up 5% worldwide to over 6500, units. Porsche expect to increase to 500 units in India for 2011 (up 5 times from 2010) and sold 95,000 units globally units 2010. I simply think GL can take share of the market, proving they still have an eye on power/weight/Co2!

        Tony Fernandez is not part of GL, or has an interest their cars, so please drop the pride and let Lotus run their business and their brand. Also, as a Malaysian, create a true Malaysian F1 team under your own brand and in the literal sense, man up and ‘put your money where your mouth is’ Glad you agree that having borrowing is essential so hardly a criticism for Proton and Lotus, but RM6.35 billion is a huge amount of money to gamble over the next several years especially if, as you say, there will be ‘stricter CO2 limits and lower oil security’. There’s only one logo on a Lotus car and last time I checked it doesn’t say Team Lotus. How would TF feel, if I were to purchase an old Minardi and race last place in F1 in a red and white livery car called ‘Asia Air’.

      2. David Ryan says:

        Sorry for the slow reply – I couldn’t find this again to start with! I do see what you’re getting at, but the problem is GL’s business model specifically sets out to drop models like the Elise and Exige – which arguably kept the company going over the last 15 years – in favour of Ferrari-chasers and the like. You are correct that the manufacturers increased sales, but in the case of Rolls Royce (to use but one example) that only equates to 2,711 cars being sold overall, which to me suggests the luxury car market isn’t that large overall even if demand is increasing. Lotus as a brand is simply not strong enough at present to make inroads, or at least certainly not before established names take up all the niches in the market. It’s also worth noting that Fernandes did have an interest in GL, and should an opportunity arise would probably look at it again, hence why he went down this route in the first place.

        The debt figure is high, certainly, but as I pointed out before provided they can service the debt in full (and their last set of accounts suggest they can do so) then it is not on its own an issue. GL have thus far provided little to suggest they will, and in terms of their debt versus their assets £500m is quite a significant chunk and therefore more risky. On the logo issue, Justice Peter Smith addressed this in the court decision which I would recommend reading as it sets out the issues well, and on the “Asia Air” example you give that would be different as there is no established goodwill in that name – unlike Team Lotus – and it would be classed as passing off.

    8. Ragerod says:

      No.

      I’m British and I’m embarrassed that one of our great car manufacturers may disappear because a disillusioned, disgruntled man is trying to get back at his former employers, Ferrari.

      Concerns are immediately raised about the business model considering the banks had to forced/given guarantees by the Malaysian government to approve loans.

      There’s a massive untapped Asian market that’s waiting for affordable sports cars yet this is being ignored by Bahar despite it being exactly what Lotus is about.

      The Malaysian suits were wooed by the thought of Lotus being an Asian Ferrari, a decision they must regret as it’s bought them nothing but problems.

      It’s very difficult to challenge companies in the position of Ferrari without providing a unique or better product. I doubt Bahar will be able to achieve either.

      1. Rich C says:

        Sorry to be the bearer of sad tidings, but Lotus is not a British sportscar company any more. Its Malaysian, so you probably shouldn’t care if it goes broke.

        ps; Jaguar isn’t British any longer either.

      2. James Allen says:

        Made in UK. Does that not count?

      3. Rich C says:

        Sadly, no, James, the same as beamers made in Tennessee are not American.

      4. Rich C says:

        Sorry, I meant South Carolina.
        My bad.

      5. Neil Ford says:

        To this comment and a few from above/below. What better benchmark then Ferrari. What good would it be to have a CEO that didn’t aim high and believe they can take on anyone! The times have changed and all this stuff about original Lotus ethos was created in the 60’s. Technology has progressed, don’t you think that if Colin Chapman was around now he would be moving not just with the times, but ahead of them, utilising all the technology available. I’m sure when Enzo saw Lotus moving an F1 engine to the rear of a car that it was not in the spirit of racing, but if you want to win, the you need adapt with the times.
        For GL, it is a branding nightmare to be cheering 16th spot. Look at EPL, even 2nd place is no guarantee for a manager to keep a job (bit ridiculous but there it is). So selling t-shirts with the logo of your cars is not good publicity for a ‘best of the rest’ team (ref TF breaking their licence agreement).
        As far as Asian markets wanting affordable sports cars. Nope, you are so wrong. I live in KL and travel extensively around Asia and there are more Ferrari’s, Porsches, BMW’s and Mercs than you could possible believe. When Asian business people make money they don’t care about valet parking a car outside the local bar without a roof and a power to weight ration of 400Bhp/per ton. They want something to show off in and take out on a Sunday. As much as I LOVE the Exige S there are probably less than 20 in Malaysia. My needs represent a smaller segment, and Lotus couldn’t survive just making track day specials for me. Where I live, there are more Ferrari’s and Porches than that, just within my community. And here’s the crazy part. With all the import duty, even a 3 year old Ferrari 430 will cost about RM500,000 (GBP100,000!)
        We criticize the English football team or Andy Murray for not playing with passion or aggression when needed and on the other side, criticize Lewis or Danny Bahar for having too much ego. It’s crazy. If you want success you have to believe you can win despite the odds. You will make mistakes but you learn from them. The cameras spend more time on Lewis, Schumacher, Mansell, Senna, etc etc exactly for this reason.
        This is a global world and it matters not who invests in a company (anyone can buy shares) or who is the majority owner, providing the brand, the culture, and the jobs remain essentially British. Again think EPL, or even McLaren. When all the jobs, technology, manufacturing has been bought and moved to emerging markets where passion is rife, and all that’s left in the UK is a few old car assembly plants and museums, I wonder how people will feel.
        Proton and Dany Bahar are offering a lifeline for a great company to move into the future and become a something even more special and the average Brit should support them wholeheartedly. If not, then they will have no choice other than to move it to a place where people will do a better job!

      6. Neil Ford says:

        PS. Talking about Proton and Lotus’s borrowing. According to Air Asia’s Annual Report 2010, their total debt is ……get this….US$2.5billion!! or RM6.3 Billion…that’s US$1 million multiplied by 2,500….I wonder if that has anything to do with why he doesn’t want to have Air Asia F1 T-shirts and coming in 16th place.

      7. jonrob says:

        However is it not true that your import duty is going to be reduced? This will seriously damage Proton, which has so far enjoyed a protected market, even though not doing very well in it.

      8. Peter C says:

        John Cooper. Oh, sorry – he was the first to move the engine to the rear in a F1 car.

        Colin Chapman saw it was good……& followed.

        Ferrari saw the wisdom & followed too.

      9. David Ryan says:

        As has already been pointed out, Ferrari was following Cooper’s innovation, not Lotus – the first Lotus F1 car was front engined. That is a minor point however. What is more worrying is your claim that Chapman’s ethos of reducing weight and using smaller, more powerful engines is outdated, as that is the direction future car design is inevitably going to have to go in with stricter CO2 limits and lower oil security. Building a series of bulkier supercars to compete in an already crowded sector with reduced market globally, in contrast, is not a good future direction – see for instance Aston cutting back Lagonda production significantly, which should be of some concern for Lotus given their Eterne is in the same vein. The argument regarding the T-shirt is a curious one considering none of the teams in the EPL have jumped ship in the same manner, and in any event does not mitigate the fact that it was a fairly trivial matter to terminate on without seeking resolution. Being optimistic and bold is all well and good, but it has to be tempered with realism and I must confess that still appears to be lacking in GL’s future plans. £500m to fund five new road cars, a new factory & test track and several racing projects is asking a lot in my view – running before they can walk certainly springs to mind, and this is purely from a business perspective I should add. Whether Bahar comes across as arrogant or otherwise is irrelevant in my opinion; I simply feel his business model is not up to scrutiny.

        On a final note, AirAsia’s current debt level is somewhat put into perspective when you consider the retail value of an Airbus is c.$85m and the combined value of their fleet is probably in the region of $7bn (give or take depreciation). They are also trading at a profit which suggests they can service their debt adequately, which is more important than the total amount in the grand scheme of things.

      10. Chee says:

        Neil,

        From the perspective of a middle-class Malaysian Chinese, I agree with your observation there are lots of luxury branded cars on the road than most people imagine. However this doesn’t mean Lotus stands a chance. It’s more of a cultural thing – we tend to be loyal to luxury car brand for generations irrespective of the price tag. You have rightly pointed out they are for show off more than anything. Unfortunately, Lotus is never on the radar and hardly I imagine this will change. In Malaysia context, sale of Lotus new luxury range in the future is primarily driven by political reason than consumer preferred choice. In a Chinese context, you can forget about it all – I dare speak for my mainland Chinese friends they won’t spend that amount of money for a Lotus car, however luxury that is. The only emerging market left is India, which I have limited exposure. I struggle to make sense of Bahar’s business model frankly. Certainly I wish Bahar will succeed as I’m reluctantly a Malaysian taxpayer, but chances are pretty slim. On the contrary, I wish he could have gone sooner and let’s bite the bullet. No, Proton management’s ego won’t ever let this happen. What a dilemma in a lovely country such as Malaysia!

  13. Bec says:

    @Jason

    This is from 2010 but it gives the background:

    http://www.saveteamlotus.com/

  14. Jason says:

    Thankyou to everyone for that. I now understand it fully. But in all honesty, just seems like another one of those issues that really isnt worth the effort.

    I can understand both parties having similar issues. But from and email i just got outlining all the issues involved, They are seperate entities, and have been for a while. What i still dont understand is, one person is team lotus, and the other, lotus in general. How could this have happened? Anywho, i dont expect a reply to this. As its just another of those issues that i dont have time for. Alot like the FIA and them seeking to destroy F1 with rules. :) I say, give them a engine, a chassis and all the aero bits. And i must say the new tires. Those are tires that are true race tires, being they wear out. And let them race.

    Just another of my long winded thoughts. Us Aussies are good for that. :)

    1. Tom in adelaide says:

      I agree, this is one political issue in F1 that i really haven’t bothered following. Funny thing is, who are they marketing to anyway? I doubt many viewers have either the cash or the desire to buy a Lotus vehicle. Heck, I’ve never even tried a can of Red Bull…..

      1. DH says:

        Ditto. Great comment.

        ‘Branding’ heads over in some virtual reality I cannot relate to.

    2. unooc12 says:

      Chapman, who started it all orignally started it as two sperate things. Team Lotus who raced in motorsport and Lotus Cars who would manafacture cars. Lotus Cars never owned Team Lotus, but they did have their logo stuck onto their vans and whatnot as advertising.

      After Chapman died (not directly after though) the two started giong their seperate ways. Team Lotus having finacial difficulties (see inteh very early 1990′s…. some teams including the legendary Brabham foreclosed), Team Lotus were bought by others. After that Lotus Cars was bought out by others, now namely Proton (the car manafacturer).

      So it was originally two seperate companies owned by one. Not one owning the other (VW owns Audi say), but more like Aston Martin and Prodrive both being owned by David Richards. (I think this is the case).

      Now no one originally involved with owning both at once owns any, and their voices were with Fernandes until suddenly going the other way (thinking $$$ given that Baher used $$$ to get Mansell, Alesi et.c.. onboard with jobs).

      My personal opinion is that the current Team Lotus isn’t the old team lotus, nor is the renault with Lotus crayoned in. Team Lotus has the right reasons and they have a big plan, are trying hard have a base in Norfolk, the right colours (not stupid memorabilia marketing colours), and the right attitude. I’m happy to see them as a Team Lotus II. Just like a remake of an old movie or an old game. If Team Lotus is the Italian job then the new Team Lotus is the new remake. A bit different but still quite good. Some like the old better, others the opposite.

      I think GL should have just given a few dollars to Fernandes and worked together.

  15. Richard says:

    James I love your site. I wouldn’t visit it every day if I didn’t.

    Having just read your article, I know that is 5 minutes of my life I will never get back.

    Can we go back to Formula 1 for your next piece?

    1. Jason says:

      It is F1 relevant.

  16. chris says:

    This dude is trying to run before he can walk. He should just concentrate on building one great new sports car and only when it is beautifuly designed, engineered and tested should he shout about it.

    Build it and they will come.

  17. Brace says:

    James, when you want pure results from Google (not influenced by your previous searching habits, preferences etc), enter Private Browsing mode or whatever it is called in your browser.
    In Chrome it’s called Incognito.
    When you search Google in that mode, results are unaffected by your previous preferences, which Google would usually take into account when presenting you with the results of your query.

  18. Peter says:

    A bit like legally changing your name to Fangio and claiming you’re continuing that story. No, my misguided friend, you’re not. Team Asia anyone?

    I’m so over this debacle.

  19. AMG Fan says:

    Lotus have a puzzling road car plan at the moment. The Esprit supercar has been delayed for numerous years. They announced plans to make their road own engines, but I would be surprised if they had the capabilities to make competitive engines compared to with Ferrari and McLaren.

    Lotus want to target the more expensive end of the road car market, but the recent Evora model has a cheap-feeling interior not worthy of its price tag – and comparable rivals. Lotus have very ambitious plans, and ambition is good – but more substance is needed and less talk.

    I see Dany Bahar said the Ferrari 458 and McLaren MP4-12C feel too clinical and lack emotion, perhaps he should concentrate on his own programme and making cars worthy of their price tags.

  20. Bob D says:

    I saw this on JA F1 Tweets earlier today:

    “f1zone F1: Rumour mill today suggests that Renault are trying to get Bruno Senna to replace Nick Heidfeld, possibly as soon as the next race”

    Wonder if the team needs a pay driver for the rest of the year.

    1. Rich C says:

      I’ll do it! They don’t call me ‘Fangio’ for nada!

    2. Jason says:

      Why would you replace heidfeld with senna?

      That juat doesnt make sense. :)

      1. Thomas says:

        Senna in a Lotus…………

        Looks like their financials may not be all that rosey when they are going for marketing BS like this.

      2. Peter C says:

        It’s a Renault. Group Lotus couldn’t build aF1 car even with a bigger bank loan.

  21. Jason C says:

    A point about renaming of chassis… I thought that teams could rename from one year to the next without penalty.

    It seems from the piece that the F1 commission has a veto over renaming until the end of 2012, but here I don’t understand – are all bets off for the 2013 season? Do they give up their veto over 2013 season?

    And why would they refuse to rename Renault to Lotus for 2012? Reminds me of the silly ‘BMW’ Sauber in 2010. This part of the sport needs a cleanup, regardless of the finer technical points of the naming rules. To me, it’s just silly to have 2 separate Lotus teams with Renault engines, one actually called ‘Renault’ without any part of it being owned by Renault. Yet also having ‘Lada’ written on the car. If the F1 commission has a veto on team names, why did they let a second team use the word ‘Lotus’ in its name: ‘Lotus Renault GP’?

  22. Rich C says:

    >A point about renaming of chassis… I thought that teams could rename from one year to the next without penalty.

    No. Dunno why, just… no.

    >are all bets off for the 2013 season?

    Probably, since the COncorde agreement governs all, and it expires after 2012.

    >why did they let a second team use the word ‘Lotus’ in its name: ‘Lotus Renault GP’?

    They didn’t. Lotus is the main sponsor, not part of the actual legal name of the team.

    >And why would they refuse to rename Renault to Lotus for 2012

    Who, the Commission? They don’t rename teams, they just approve or not. The team can pretty much rename itself and its chassis anything within reason. But they give up all last year’s prize money for doing so. No one sane woulkd do that.

  23. PaulL says:

    That Google result is interesting.

    I found that when you do a search on the Constructors Championship table, you get the following:

    4. Group Lotus Renault, 60 points


    10. Team Lotus, 0 points

    I also found when you do a search on key supporters you get the following:
    Group Lotus Renault: The Chapman Family, Nigel Mansell, Renault.
    Team Lotus: Caterham Cars.

    Taken together, it’s almost like TL carries out more self-promotion for lower profile returns.

    1. Mat says:

      There are reasons why the Chapman family and Nigel Mansell are supporting Group Lotus. Nigel has been given the role of Lotus Ambassador so of course he is going to endorse them over Fernandes. As for the Chapmans, I believe they changed their minds when Bahar and Group promised to build the Chapman/Lotus Museum. If they were getting something out of Bahar would they still be endorsing him?

    2. nilon says:

      absolutely correct, cheers

  24. LJKS says:

    Marketing the Lotus brand in two quite major emerging sports car markets in Asia, China and Thailand, is a bit problematic. In those two countries Tesco supermarkets trade as Tesco Lotus, and are locally called simply ´Lotus´.

    So driving a Lotus branded car in those countries would be pretty similar to driving a Tesco branded car in the UK.

  25. Simple says:

    James, could you please elaborate on why Bahar feels that negotiations on the new Concorde agreement will stall? Is this a revenue thing or something else?

    Also great blog mate, I check in daily in anticipation of your insights into F1. Love it, cheers.

    1. James Allen says:

      He feels that the three sides will not find a deal by the deadline of December 2012. So going into 2013 there will be no Concorde Agreement. We’ve been in that position before, of course. One would have to look into that scenario and see who that would most suit and see whether this makes it likely/unlikely

  26. douglas says:

    On Google.ca it was 7th.

  27. Paddy says:

    [mod] He took on Malaysia’s most successful business man and is losing big time. Paying millions in court fees wasting his limited budget and energy. Racing without his companies name on the chassis so making his sponsorship worthless. They can’t even afford to put there name on it anyway. So what is the point other than propping up Genni Capital. Its not like anyone is going to go out and buy one his cars because of this investment. If he stuck with Fernandes he would have everything he wanted. A chassis in his companies name and racing team with his support and something that people could see his company has direct linkage to. Now everyone is going to go out and buy a Chatham Lotus. Lesson for the kids on how not to spend 500 million dollars.

    1. Peter C says:

      Caterham. It’s a few miles from Chatham.

      1. Paddy says:

        lol sorry my bad

  28. Jack says:

    RE: the google search, that’s exactly as it should be, because they’re not Lotus F1, they’re Renault F1.

    And has anybody done more to make themselves so unpopular with so many people in such a short space of time as Danny Bahar? He’s like the opposite of a BoB pilot

  29. Mon Pen says:

    I am so bored with this I no longer read about the bickering over the Lotus name. Someone ought to crack some heads together for goodness’ sake.

    1. Jay says:

      what would that involve?

    2. Alex says:

      I agree it’s boring now. Let’s just give it 3 years and see who’s still around.

  30. Chee says:

    James,

    There are reports claim the appeal application was rejected by High Court this morning. Does that mean Group Lotus can never appeal? Thanks.

  31. Tony Fernandes wanted the Group Lotus Job that Dany Bahar got.
    Think Roy Hodgson and King Kenny.
    Two people into one entity does not go.

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