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Does Dany Bahar want to do too much?
You may have noticed that Dany Bahar has done a lot of declarations in the past few months.
Defector of Ferrari’s marketing, he has been Group Lotus CEO in the past year, and has taken
an ambitious turn towards automotive competition as a CEO. But exceedingly announcing
stuff can be puzzling. The plan is ambitious, a little too ambitious as some would say.
Everything has occurred between the announcement of KV Racing-Lotus Cars partnership in
IndyCar at the beginning of 2010 and the one with Genii to create Lotus Renault GP. Beyond
that, during the Paris Motor Show we have seen the presentation of the GP2-GP3’s
programme with ART, as well as LMP2’s one, without counting the road programme that
includes six new models to be released in the next five years. Earlier on this week, Dany
Bahar even gave people to understand that in the long run, Lotus could get its own engines,
both in F1 and in automotive. Furthermore, the brand has already launched its IndyCar engine
and aero kits supplier programme for 2012, when the new regulations apply.
If the move looks to be praiseworthy, its establishment seems to be quite megalomaniac and
pretentious. Not only can we first doubt on the money that they have, but Dany Bahar’s
personality is also to be put into question. Besides, Proton has decided to surround Bahar by
Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, former executive manager of BMW. Bahar’s marketing plan is not
securing industrial spillovers, or turning that advertisement into sales on the road. Lotus’
challenge is a dangerous game, double-edged even.
As for Proton, let’s recall that there are only about 12,000 employees for 173,000 cars
produced this year. The fixed aim for 2011 is above 200,000. Benefits have been achieved
once in the two last years, to elevate to some dozens of million euro. Lotus’ share is therefore
even lower than that, and it is easy to understand that the Malaysian state is there to refinance
So we are far from Renault’s strong back that they could bring to Enstone. Genii has not
always reassured on its ability to finance, but what to say on Proton? This same Proton lost its
leadership in its domestic market, as it has been overtaken by Perodua. Perodua, which is
pushing further the delay of a merger, with Proton, that is wished by the government.
Perodua is associated with Toyota and Daihatsu, as Lotus is in its engine supply for roads, but
Proton could survive in the long run only with the help of more powerful a group. Bahar’s
game could only be saved if the Renault-Nissan Alliance is to associate with Proton, as Carlos
Ghosn gave recently people to understand that, or if Toyota takes the part. Lotus Renault GP’s
agreement could hint at an answer, but habits die hard.
Until then, although being too ambitious and too good a plan to be true in some aspects,
Bahar’s ambitious plan could drag Lotus to bankruptcy, or the group as a whole. This would
not be there Proton’s first failure in its strategy to give a boost to Lotus Cars.