Exclusive Interview with Lotus CEO Dany Bahar

It all started with a press release. A fancy one, with an image of Stonehenge and some claims that were at the upper limit of boldness. Something that was very not Lotus. Eyebrow after eyebrow, the entire autoevolution office was shaken. We've always had some kind of soft spot for the British carmaker's creations and at the same time, we were feeling bad to see its financial figures staying out of the sun's reach.

The next frame will always bring flashbacks: we, our cameras and the roar of the 2010 Paris Auto Show. It's the Lotus press conference and none of the rumors we had written about could prepare us for the shock we had when we found out that Lotus went down a different road, choosing to leave Colin Chapman's ultralight philosophy that made the brand famous behind. Or did it?

Now, with things having had one year to settle down, we sat down with Dany Bahar, the man that orchestrated this revolution, to find the answer.

autoevolution:  We understand why you chose this new pathway for Lotus, but why does this have to exclude an ultra lightweight car? You could introduce your planned offensive and also create such a car. We’re not referring to a
track toy like the 2-11, but rather to a Lotus Seven revival...

Dany Bahar: Say again, why did you have to exclude an ultra lightweight car? Who excluded that? I think that what we showed at the Paris Motor Show was a great lineup that included main models, Elise, Elan, Esprit, but we never excluded any exiguous or hardcore lightweight car such as a Lotus Seven or a 2-11 or something. This are considered products, Lotus will always do lightweight hardcore products even if we have a four dour sedan in the market. So one doesn’t exclude the other one. All we want is a comprehensive lineup that offers products for all sportscars enthusiast.

ae: So you’re saying a Lotus Seven revival is indeed possible?

DB: Well, I’ve seen some drawings and they look very nice, we have to see. It’s always possible, it’s just a matter of timing.

ae: Since you’re seeking profitability and want to keep your core values alive, why not consider including a more affordable sports car in your range, something that would keep things simple and be available to a wider range of customers. After all, the latest example of this, the Toyobaru project, seems to be attracting a huge amount of interest from the public.

DB: If the company is profitable, if it does have enough capital, enough revenues and enough substance we can always do products that are affordable. Lotus tried 15 years to do more affordable, more volume and it didn’t work. 15 years the company wasn’t profitable. So do we really have to change something? I can only see that Ferrari and Aston Martin are doing very well and they’re not selling affordable cars.

ae: We heard you speaking about efficiency many times and we’d like to know if you could be counted within the Proton Group from this point of view, a move that would reduce the pressure to lower your average CO2

DB: Lotus was always about efficiency and will always be in the future about efficiency. And all our hybrids cars will be based on a hybrid technology. So efficiency will be standard on all our cars, even on the more expensive ones.

: What plans do you have in terms of hybrid developments for your future cars? Can you give us some details about the powertrain? Will it be a specific one, or will you combine an electric motor with multiple engines, depending on the model it is going to be used on?

DB: I can not tell you. All I can say is that Lotus was always famous for being the first, being the innovative, and I can only tell you that the hybrid technology that Lotus will use is very innovative and nobody else has such a thing. I leave it up to you and your imagines. Don’t think about multiple electric engines though, this idea is already in use. Just wait and see.

ae: Do you have any specific plans for your interiors? Any names of Suppliers or designers that you might have in mind?

DB: We hired the chief designer from Ferrari. The new interiors will be developed with suppliers that supply the interiors for Porsche, for Audi, for Lamborghini so we’ll have a proper quality on the new cars and the suppliers will be whatever suppliers will be, there are a lot out there.

ae: When you put together and analyze all the new products and information you’ve released since the reinvention of the company, things look good on paper, but, as we know, you also need to offer an emotional bonus to
be able to sell a sportscar. What will you do for this?

DB:The driving experience you get in a Lotus is something that the company has always did very good and we’re very confident that we will do the same for the future cars. So it’s all about driver interaction, it’s all about too many technological systems to help you driving, it’s about the way you connect with the car. A Lotus will always be a pure driver’s car. You’ve seen our products in Paris, this is what we decided to go for and this is what we’re working on. So the same lines in the future for the next models.
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About the author: Andrei Tutu
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In his quest to bring you the most impressive automotive creations, Andrei relies on learning as a superpower. There's quite a bit of room in the garage that is this aficionado's heart, so factory-condition classics and widebody contraptions with turbos poking through the hood can peacefully coexist.
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