Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Lotus should keep it simple to succeed

WHO wants to be a millionaire? I do, but only, obviously, so I can answer one of the motoring world's great unsolved mysteries. Would you, given the money, blow it on a brand new Lotus?

One man, former Ferrari chief Danny Bahar, was ballsy enough to try and answer this question, and came up with an ambitious plan to turn the Norfolk sports car specialists into Britain's premier league supercar makers (presumably, premier league refers to the intended customers). His plan was so brave that, as of last weekend, he's been dismissed from his job as the company's CEO.

To recap, Danny's plan; launch not one model, but five, take Lotus back to Formula One and make the company much, much more upmarket. The industry pundits sneered. Lotus' existing owners - trackday bores with tuned Elises and Exiges - wrote in to the letters pages of Evo and Autocar, demanding to know why cars created with the phase “just add lightness” in mind were going to be made bigger and heavier. Even I had a pop, poking fun in a piece last year because Lotus somehow ended up with two teams on the F1 grid with the same name. How funny was that?

Then I was actually invited to go down to the factory, out in the flatlands of Norfolk, and to drive the Evora S, which at the time of writing is still the fastest, flashiest car they make. I left Hethel thinking it was a bit of a mixed bag; I loved the care with which the cars were put together, the way the company's boffins used their expertise to fine tune all sorts of cars on their test track, and the way the company cherishes its heritage - the Esprit Sport 300 next to the main reception desk and the old F1 cars were sights to behold. But then I got shown a mock up of a shop selling Lotus-branded polo shirts and overpriced coats. The Lotus experience Danny had in mind for the more minted end of the market, to be honest, was a bit confusing.

Yet there was nothing confusing at all about the car I left Norfolk in - yes, it had useless back seats and the immobiliser didn't work, but it was simply sublime to drive. This, I reckoned, is what Lotus is all about - good looks and great handling in a lightweight package. Something the company does best in the Elise, which costs not Ferrari money but a very reasonable thirty grand.

So back to the original question. Yeah, I'd blow my hard-earned on a Lotus - but only if it's small and fun rather than bloated and overpriced. Keep it fun, chaps. Keep it simple. Above all, keep it cheap.

No comments:

Post a Comment