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Bahar claims Fernandes wanted too much money for Lotus peace deal
Bahar claims Fernandes wanted too much money for Lotus peace deal
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Dec 2010   |  5:15 pm GMT  |  99 comments

Lotus CEO Danny Bahar hosted a small group of media at the RAC Club in London today, of which I was one, to lay out his vision for Lotus in F1 and road cars. He didn’t say much about his rival Tony Fernandes, who has been using the Lotus name in F1 this season. However he did say that he tried to do a deal with him, but the Malaysian wanted too much money,

“We tried, but when the counter proposals are so ridiculous, there is no point to continue to talk. ” said Bahar. “(The Renault deal) was one third of the cost.”

But Tony Fernandes has denied this, “Complete rubbish,” he said. ” We never ever talked about numbers. Proton paid us US$ 1 million in sponsorship. I offered him to be joint venture partners, I offered share swap, we did everything. if he gave use $20 million (believed to be the level of the Lotus sponsorship of Renault) he could have got so much out of it. He would be in Norfolk, sponsoring a team that own Team Lotus. He would have Clive Chapman down the road and together we could all have worked together to bring Lotus to greater heights in three years.”

Bahar explained that the reason why Fernandes’ team was granted a licence to race as Lotus is because the previous management of the car company, backed by the Malaysian Proton management, thought it would be a good idea. But then when Bahar joined, he laid out his vision which is to promote the car brand via motorsport, ploughing all the budget that would normally go on advertising into motorsport as a prmotional vehicle. And with that strategy then it made no sense not to be in F1.

But he clearly doesn’t feel that getting involved in Fernandes ‘ team was the right thing to do, nor did he have any serious attempt to buy the Team Lotus rights from David Hunt, clearly believing that he didn’t need to; as he controlled the Lotus brand, “no judge in the world could stop me promoting my brand in F1.”

He said at one point, “We don’t claim to be Team Lotus, and we don’t want to be. It has a glorious past, but Team Lotus should be kept where it was, it should rest in peace. ”

Lotus will build its own sports racing cars, it already has a customer base for those, so it will break even on that programme, whereas the GP2 and GP3 programmes and the F1 programme will cost money, which Bahar classifies as promotional money. Bahar dismissed the idea of doing his own team and thus felt the Renault deal was the right way to go, seeing as Genii Capital, which owns Renault F1, was already engaged with Lotus and Proton in discussions about collaboration on road cars,

“But we would not have the courage to build a new team from scratch,” he said, “So we took the more conservative approach. We want to fight at the top end of the grid. We understand that for the next two years we need to learn about F1, the car will be a Renault and so on, but then when we have a new Concorde Agreement, hopefully (in 2013) we can possibly change the name, we’ll see where we are and learn over two years.”

So he has sponsored the Renault team for two years with an option for a third at around $20 million a year and will buy a major stake in the team, somewhere between 25% and 50% from Genii.

The backing for Lotus from the Malaysian Government via Proton is significant; working on the basis that a sportscar costs £150 million to develop, Lotus has the funding for the five sportscars it plans to launch in its range – £800m was the level Bahar spoke about today. The company has lost money for many years and Proton had the choice of selling it or going for it with a big investment push. Bahar has come along with an “ambitious and super aggressive plan” as he puts it, to build Lotus into a British Porsche, selling a range of cars from the current entry level sports car up to something a Porsche or Ferrari customer might want to buy. He is targetting the Asian market in particular, leveraging the dealer network relationships Proton has in the region, which these days distribute the full range of cars from runabouts to super luxury.

Bahar doesn’t believe that there will be four cars on the grid next year with Lotus in the name and nor does he believe that it will end up in a legal battle. He thinks that the shareholders of both sides will strike some sort of peace deal, “This will be a high level deal, well above my level,” Bahar added.

A gentle reminder to readers – Don’t miss the Christmas deadline for ordering the JA on F1 season Review book. If you want one for your loved one (or yourself!) December 22nd is the last date for UK postage to be sure of arriving in time for Christmas. It’s sold very well so far, there should still be books available up to Christmas, but not for long after at this rate.

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With only 2000 cars sold each year Bahar can’t count on Lotus being able to support an F1 team. Gross sales at retail would only be about $200,000,000. 100 million per year for F1, a billion plus for new product development; how is he going to pay the mortgages.


“I’m just desperately hoping he doesn’t send Lotus cars to the scrapheap.”

I am sorry to say that there is every chance of that unless Proton’s fortunes pick up dramatically, since there is no profit in Lotus Cars or Lotus Engineering and they already owe Proton/PONSB around £40.5M and are paying interest of about £0.6M per year. The total NAV seems to be around £76M. All this to sell 2000 cars per year? What Lotus need is a doubling or trebling of car sales with no cost increase. Unfortunately the car market is not enjoying it’s heyday any more and sales are likely to fall rather than rise.

There were a lot of good engineers at both Lotus Cars and Engineering, I fear for their futures a year hence.


With the media attention given to ‘LOTUS’ the brand itself is gaining momentum.


This man Bahar is bad news all around. He should have cut a deal with Team Lotus who are based in Norfolk. He should have been MADE to by Proton and the Malay goverment.

He is interfighting with two Malay companies.

This Renault Genni team is not Lotus car as McLaren are not a Vodaphone car.

Fernandes comes across as a decent well intentioned custodian of Lotus.

This Bahar chracter has soiled Lotus Cars image. I hope that Team Lotus continue and that Group lotus are forced to buy a stake in them uniting these companies.

4 redbulls do not bother us. Nor will 4 Lotus cars.

Go Team Lotus!


“Fernandes comes across as a decent well intentioned custodian of Lotus”..

totally unfounded statement…


Is it just me but I am confused.Who is Lotus and who is Lotus? I know who Lotus was!


I fear for Lotus Cars

I’ve owned 2 Lotus cars, an Excel and an early Elise. Love the marque but no way can it ever hope to compete with the Grandees like Porsche or Ferrari any time soon.

Lets be honest, Lotus roadcars have never really been of sufficient quality to jump into the upper tier. It took both Ferrari and Porsche several decades and massive product exposure over that time to make that leap and today there are many mainstream manufacturers playing that space too e.g. BMW, Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, Maserati etc etc.

I just don’t see how Lotus can compete realistically unless they have a generous parent company. Hmm how about Tata to add to the Jag/LR operation? Or BMW to add a supercar to its range etc?

Numbers. Ouch. Right now they make about 2000 odd cars per year so 20 million GBP means each sale of an Elise or Evora must contribute 10 thousand GBP to the Lotus Renault deal. So thats’s why an Elise is getting so expensive then…. Simplistic but think about it for a while.



Hi James!

Thanks for all these great articles over the winter it makes it a bit less painful waiting for the new season to start!

Recieved my book last week – all the way to Bergen Norway. Thanks for signing the book James.

Merry Christmas!



Bahar is heading for a spreading I feel. He can sponsor whatever he likes (assuming he has the money?!?) but he can’t claim heritage that he doesn’t own or stop someone else claiming the heritage they do own. The trouble is, unless he is stopped soon, the chances are he’ll take Lotus Cars down with him.

Anyway, as someone above mentioned, there won’t be 4 Lotuses on the grid – there will be 2 Lotuses and 2 Renaults with a jazzy paint job.


The way I see it, all this “friction” between Team Lotus and Group Lotus is exactly what Group Lotus want. Journo’s can’t get enough and it’s all free publicity. I’m fed up of reading article after article on motorsports sites about it tbh. No doubt the “rivalry” between the two teams next year will encourage yet more publicity. Group Lotus can’t lose tbh.

The only shame I see is that Team Lotus’ black/gold livery was MUCH nicer than Renaults attempt and the racing green they’ve been using this year looks naff imho.


That’s not what’s going on. This is real. But you are right that two years ago no-one was talking about Lotus and now you can’t escape it!


that is he call it transformation business plan…you may not like it now..but wait and see a few years time…you may change your mind aswell..


transformation business plan? is that a new name for “make it up as we go along” business? 🙂


as long as business run…


It’s nice to finally understand what Group Lotus are up to and it makes a lot of sense to try and make money in Asia where the car is still a relatively new object of desire.

What I don’t approve of is the way he goes about it.

Whilst attacking is the best way of defending, I can’t help but think underhand comments such as Tony Fernandes wanted more money are very gentleman like. It doesn’t sound like Fernandes whereas a joint venture is much more like him.

James, what was the atmosphere like in the room? Did Dany Bahar seem nervous? Was it a hostile environment or were the journos open minded?


No he did not seem nervous, he seems extremely confident. Atmosphere was friendly, professional, no edge to it at all.


Rose tinted glasses are very much out of fashion :

Those of us who have owned Lotus road cars will need an awful lot of convincing that Proton can move the brand sufficiently upmarket and build cars of the quality required to become a “British Porsche”

By contrast, I have no doubt that Ron Dennis will ensure that McLaren becomes a serious rival to both Ferrari and Porsche.

Personally, I’ll back Ron and buy McLaren’s rival to the 911 when it comes out in a year or two.

Sorry, Danny, I know the handling will be fantastic, but I won’t be buying a Lotus anytime soon.


Exactly. The Elise is a stripped out lightweight. The 911 is a thoroughbred that can be used every day.

My Elise made my ears bleed it was so uncomfortable !

A big step between two types of car. Which is generally where lotus ate going into.

Anyone know, are lotus going to build their own engines for the cars?


Bahar seems to change his story and contradict his previous statements at every interview. But what I want to know is where is the money comming from? Neither Lotus or Proton are making any significant money and haven’t for a long time. The 20m for Renault sponsorship is purely Lotus money and takes all the Lotus advertising budget. Proton have said they are investing RM500m which is about £100m in Lotus over the next two years. That leaves about £700m to find to develop the new road cars, millions to find to buy the shares in the Renault F1 Team, Millions to find for the other racing programmes already annouced…. Just where is the money comming from? it just doesn’t stack up….. Shades of DeLorean to me.


Malaysian government, big investment until expected break even in 2014, according to Bahar


How do they expect to break even in 2014? As I recall the Esprit is the first of the new generation to reach the market but that isn’t until 2013. The rest aren’t set to reach market until 2014/2015. How can they recoup costs so fast? Even if there were enough buyers, they would not have the output to match.


I meant James’s last article on this Lotus issue, not this one 😛


So, which team has the biggest identity, which team can relate more to Team Lotus core values, to Colin Chapman’s ideals?

Renault: ex-Toleman, Benetton, Renault, now Lotus and future Volkswagen or Sponge Bob Racing?

Or a team built from nothing, with people gathered around the idea of making Team Lotus live again, with a maverick like Mike Gascoign on its head?

Bahar’s last sentence is an assumption of victory: he believes he has already won this dispute: that probably the Malaysian P.M. or whatever big political power will put an end to it.

Because he already knows that he will lose in the courts. He has no chance, just read David Hunt’s interview to Peter Windsor.

And he knows his team will never be seen as the real Lotus.

No proper journalist will ever write that, and only fans with no sense of history could do so.

Sad really. I would love to know Bernie’s opinion: he is certainly well informed on Group Lotus real chances, from where their money comes from, and if really they have 800 million to spend.

I don’t buy any of it. I remember Delorean, Romano Ortioli’s Bugatti, Cizeta, TWR, even Maybach and to a certain point Vw’s Bugatti. You need much more than 800 million, specially if you want to race Indycars, F1, sportscars, whatever. At least to achieve such grandiouse projects.

And one more thing: the fact that he leaved Ferrari should be more analysed: why? did he left Ferrari on his own will, or Ferrari just let him go? He also didn’t spent much time in Red Bull I guess.

What the other team’s bosses think of all this saga? Any ideas James?

Sorry for the long post. I just love too much F1 history to see Lotus on the hands of people that doesn’t deserve it, that, at least, don’t try to show any passion for it. And I’m a ferrarista, just imagine if I was a Lotus motorhead.


if he wasnt good he would not even have a chance to join Ferrari group at higher level..as well as Red Bull..people jumping from one to another company for different reason which they think fit the purpose…not all because being fired…


I did not write anywhere that he was fired, or that he isn’t skilled enough, but the idea is that Red Bull and Ferrari most certainly had good reasons for letting him go.

To join a majour group (like winning) is the easiest part of the job, but to stay there at top level, that’s another story.



“To join a majour group (like winning) is the easiest part of the job”..

do let me know when you actually join Ferrari or Redbull organization before the 2011 season start next year….i look forward to hear it..proof your word !!


I agree you, Gui. The Proton-Lotus (and that’s maybe what they should call it?) situation sounds entirely too much like those failed “premium supercar” ventures. Lotus Cars has passed through how many owners in the last 25 years with exactly this idea, to create a prestige brand off the back of the legacy of Team Lotus? None of these schemes has worked. History says there’s no reason to believe that Bahar’s plan will meet with any greater success.

Let’s face it: Lotus has made some famous and interesting production cars, but only the original Elan, the Esprit and the Elise really made the grade as usable road cars for anything resembling a long production life. Even the Seven has never been more than a four-wheeled motorcycle. Lotus really means F1.

With the possible exception of Maserati, none of the road car manufacturers Proton-Lotus aspires to emulate has EVER fully leveraged its brand SOLELY through Formula One. To a one, this leverage has only come with overall wins in the classic sports car endurance races. Especially LeMans. Ferrari’s legend stems at least as much from its repeated LeMans success as its F1 history. Porsche, Jaguar and Aston-Martin all have that in common – as does Audi in more recent times. All of this has rubbed off onto their road cars to lasting effect. Lotus lost that connection when Colin Chapman turned his back on LeMans.

Formula 1 ALONE makes a brand memorable ONLY to gearheads and racing buffs – to sports fans. See BRM, Tyrrell and Williams. That’s why the manufacturer era in F1 has never really worked. Win LeMans outright a bunch of times (or at least Sebring) and you get the maximum prestige rub off onto your road cars. Sports racing success ALL BY ITSELF gets you a name that echoes down the years: Porsche and Aston-Martin failed miserably in F1; Jaguar never operated in F1. Or Bentley. That hasn’t hurt their prestige. You MAY be able to ADD F1 success to that, as with Ferrari, but you certainly can’t do it with F1 ALONE.

Proton should consider this before dumping money into F1. BMW (which finally recognized that they need to stay in sedan racing), Toyota and Honda could tell them all about that.


I’m really curious why everyone is so against this deal. Surely Fernandes just bought the rights to a name to promote his own operations, Air Asia, Tune Group and so on. I fully understand they are working with the iconic Lotus heritage, of sorts, but isn’t this simply a brand owned by David Hunt? Can’t we get behind a new car maker wishing to enter the premier class of racing with an established team and exciting talent such as Kubica?


Exactly, I love driving Lotus cars, they make great cars that no one does. I hope Dany succeed, I want 2013 Elan + 2015 Elise. Anything based on the Evora will handle great, I am sure of it.

F1 wise, I hope everyone gets over Team Air Asia, if you have the $$$ will you do Team Air Asia or Renault + Kubica? No brainer. Even If Tony would give Dany full control of Team Air Asia for free… anyone can pretty much guess how low down the grid they will be. I would wouldn’t want my cars’ brand be associated with backmarkers.


Bahar wants to take the easy way out, and get the most value out of the money he’s spending. He comes across as a typically short sighted marketing man, lacking any ethics, sense of occasion and history. He would earned a lot more respect by investing in Team Lotus and ultimately created even more value for the Lotus brand. He could take a lesson or two from the Red Bull guys in this respect. They stuck it out for several years, invested heavily and now can legimately claim to be champions of their own making. As a sponsor, Lotus will look like they are trying to get on a bandwagon, and not like the icons of engineering excellence they wish to be seen as.

I would have hoped that he fails miserably, but that would be hoping for Kubica to fail as well, and I really like Kubica. So I look at this with mixed feelings. Now if Red Bull would just sign Kubica for 2012…


Redbull buyout existing F1 team at cheap price..the same root lotus manufacturer trying to do slowly..


Red Bull bought the team and invested heavily in infrastructure and people. Red Bull didn’t sponsor a team and try to pass it off as a “Red Bull” team.


The difference is that Red Bull bought Jaguar when they were not even close to a top-4 team, more like a bottom-4, and invested heavily to get them up to scratch. It wasnt a sponsorship deal “to see how things go” either.

Group Lotus is only going to Renault F1 on a cheaper sponsorship deal because they are a team close to the top – what if Renault start doing badly from next season? Will they get dropped by Bahar and co.? Another “change of plan” in the making?


Group Lotus and Bahar are giving out mixed messages in what seems a deliberate attempt to confuse this matter. They have no rights to the racing heritage of Team Lotus, and yet they have used (and still use) this heritage in their marketing material, their website and all over their factory headquarters. They have even proposed to paint their cars in JPS colour scheme.

They then come out with a comment like “We don’t claim to be Team Lotus, and we don’t want to be. It has a glorious past, but Team Lotus should be kept where it was, it should rest in peace.” Thats rubbish. Perhaps what they really wanted to say was “if we don’t have the rights to Team Lotus, we don’t want the fans to think you do either”. Or what about, “if we’re going down, we’re taking you with us”?

http://www.saveteamlotus.com/ is very pro Fernandes but puts up some convincing arguments to his side of the story. Towards the bottom someone has posted an article form David Hunt which is scathing of Group Lotus.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this interview James…

A final note. Irrespective of whether you are a fan of Fernandes and his claim to be Team Lotus (he only bought a name, big deal) he still BOUGHT THE NAME. Which at least legally gives him the right to use it.


I”ve had the same conversations with David Hunt. You hear both sides of the story, you can see how this whole thing came about. But how to resolve it? In a court if a judge goes with Hunt/Fernandes and says they have the right to race as Team Lotus, then things stay as they are.


Thanks for the response JA.

FWIW my support is with Fernandes and his team and I hope they do well next year. I have respect for them for choosing two established drivers this year when it would have been very easy to put a paid driver in there.

Love your site btw.


How can it possibly make sense to spend all that cash sponsoring another team, when there’s another team on the grid that would have promoted their brand, by association for effectively nothing??

The guy is a spin doctor.


Promotion will not be effective promotion if you dont get enough exposure…you can call it promotion failure..with the same amount of money you invest, if you can get more exposure with established team…any wise decision maker should choose the obvious…


If the team was being operated like hispania then maybe that point would be valid, but you’ve only got to look at the technical changes, and appointments for next year, to see that this is a proper well planned and run team.



I have entered my dad in your ‘fan to Abu Dhabi’ competition, and you have awarded me/us a runner up prize: signed copy of your book.

Alas, you have never asked for the address.

I have already send you an email, but got no response.

I have put my address in the Website box on this form, which you should be able to see.

Thanks, regards,

Felicity Martin-Daly


Yes we emailed, got the address and the book was sent.


I’m not sure I get it. He has a plan for a massive expansion and wants Lotus fans and motor sport enthusiasts to buy his cars. He is going to put his marketing budget into motor sport as part of his grand plan.

unfortunately it seems to me so far the consequences are:

– a muddied brand. who is Lotus?…who is the real Lotus?

-dissaffected fans who quite possibly side against him and so don’t buy his cars even though they were the people most likely to in the past.

-a constant negative story in the media highlighting that there is the dispute. It will potentially undercut their brand.

I see Bahar as the person with the most to lose here. The money for the expansion of Lotus is at stake. Nothing is at stake for Team Lotus really. They could just change their name and rebrand if they wanted. They don’t want to obviously, but it would be much less of a hit than screwing up a multi million pound expansion of your business. He should swallow his pride and move heaven and earth to do a deal with them.

I suppose I could be wrong and the whole “any publicity is good publicity” argument could come into play. Of course it’s also likely that Renault will crush team Lotus next year and that could also be helpful.


good or bad…any publicity will always good for marketing..the longer the publicity the more free exposure they will receive…at the end of the if the controversy are part of the strategy…well they made a huge success with the strategy to begin with..and next year renault team will definitely fight near the front end of F1 group because they have working on design around KUBICA preference for 2011 car…a great dirver with the car handling he likes…what can go wrong??


It’s only good for marketing if Joe Public knows that the Renault is a Lotus, and my point was that the commentators and graphics will be calling the car a Renault — so Bahar’s money will have been largely wasted.

He has to do a deal with Fernandes if he wants to be able to use the publicity generated by the Lotus name on track.


Seems to me that one Lotus ‘crushing’ another Lotus is not particularly good publicity.

From Bahar’s perspective he has to come to a deal with Fernandes — at any price. Think about it. If Bahar doesn’t make a decent offer — and sounds like he won’t on principal — then he has to take Fernandes to court. Then if he loses the court battle — which he will, because the ‘Team Lotus’ name has been acquired legally by Fernandes who has been competing under the name for a year — then Bahar is left backing a team that will be known as a Renault and runs in JPS colours. Which is not a great return on his money.

The simple fact is that the commentators and the on-screen graphics will for clarity refer to Bahar’s cars as ‘Renaults’ — because there’s no way they are going to call the Renaults ‘Lotuses’ when the 2 Fernandes cars already use that name, and carry that name only, so it’s that or nothing.

Once he’s lost the court case, Bahar has no option but to make a deal with Fernandes — who, quite rightly, is going to stick out for a big price.

Seems to me that Bahar has not thought it through.


For instance what people live about Ferrari or Porsche is the heritage. Would a lotus sponsored Renault or lotus badged indicar make me buy a lotus over a 911 gt3rs or 458. Er not with my money…..


iPhones…… I typed what people love …..


I tend to believe Tony Fernandes, Bahar looks too much like Montezemolo to be trusted.


Well….Bahar doesn’t shave, I’ve noticed. You could never say that about Montezemolo.


So Bahar’s gig is to imply that Fernandes and co. are trampling hallowed ground by use of the Team Lotus name and references to Chapman.

So why doesn’t Proton create a sports car brand whole-cloth rather than use the Lotus moniker? Could it be that the name carries a connotation that Bahar and his patrons would also like to tap?

Naw, Bahar would never bank on Lotus afficionados connecting those dots….

Paul H, you’re spot on.


Thanks, simple law of averages, I was bound to be right one day : )


Perhaps Fernandes should give Bernie a call and see if the Brabham name is still available.

BRM also has a nice ring to it.



Brabham name has returned to Jack’s family. About BRM, interesting but… they would have to build their own engines.



Isn’t Mike Pilbeam still active?


he should try to purchase every historical name right availabe in the F1 market now….maybe he will get good return somewhere near future.. 🙂


The sooner Lotus Cars gets away from Proton’s and Behar’s clutches the better. Behar’s plans are grandiose and bankrupting to extreme with no regard to Lotus’ core values. He doesn’t understand the marque and is taking it to the abyss. The first thing he did was to fire Mike Kimberley from Lotus. Remember the Russian who got hold of TVR?

The VW group should buy Lotus cars, They were sniffing around Lotus a few years ago. They know how to look after a car marque. They can then sell on the “Renault” F1 operation (to Villeneuve? to Stefan?), do deal deal with Team Lotus and race as Team Lotus with a Porsche or Audi engine.Pie in the sky. More likely we will see Lotus cars decline to irrelevance.


Hi James

At this point, how many Lotus’s do you see on the grid next year, 2 or 4?

Bernie is being very quiet about this all isn’t he?


I think it gets legal from here. Fernandes is proper fed up and Bahar has taken his line now.

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