That press release from Lotus Cars


Press releases are usually pretty turgid affairs.

And then, just once in a while, you get one that makes you put down your coffee, read, re-read and then check the date to make sure it’s not April 1. One such release arrived from Lotus last week. It is the most extraordinary document I can remember emerging from any press office of any car manufacturer in almost 25 years doing this job.

Even by Lotus standards, the rumour cauldron has been bubbling over of late. But instead of issuing conventional denials, Lotus decided to strike back with full force, plus interest. You can read the thermonuclear result at the bottom of this post.

Two things appear to have piqued Lotus into this unprecedented action. First the fact that Caterham boss Tony Fernandes has been rattling the Lotus cage via his Twitter account will not have helped. But I expect what really produced a mushroom cloud over Hethel was the depiction of Lotus’s CEO Dany Bahar on the website as Saddam Hussein’s hilariously misinformed information minister, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, probably better known to you and me as Baghdad Bob.

The question is, did these unique circumstances warrant the publication of that unique release? If the only issue were whether the release would bring to a wide audience the fact that Lotus was not best pleased with being portrayed in this manner, it succeeded in a way that I suspect exceeded even their wildest dreams. Within an instant of it hitting my inbox, the ether had filled with the tweets of gossiping hacks expressing incredulity not just at its content but the manner in which it was expressed.

But herein lies a danger too. I’d be fascinated to read your take on it, but I think any objective observer would regard the release as petulant, probably undignified and perhaps unbecoming a public limited company.

On the other hand so too might you regard it as spirited, characterful, strong-willed, defiant and quirky, all of which are attributes Lotus would have no problem being associated to the marque.

To me however the release is problematic and for four reasons. First it makes personal allegations against individuals. However provoked and, indeed, justified Lotus may feel in making those accusations it’s a fairly basic rule that you rarely make yourself look good by making others look bad. Secondly and more significantly, it draws stark attention – indeed states quite specifically – to the fact that Lotus is in trouble. Third, so strongly does it set out to deny each rumour it runs the risk that some might conclude it doth protest too much. Finally if Lotus’s strategy was to raise the stakes so dramatically that it would silence its critics, it has failed. Indeed it has allowed those it put in the firing line to shoot back using a perhaps more careful aim.

I am aware that this might just be my perception but there seems to be a feeling in Hethel that the world wants it to fail. I absolutely don’t believe that to be true. If you know someone who loves cars for the purity of their engineering, so too do you know someone who loves Lotus. I know, I’m one of them.

I’ve always understood that for Lotus carrying on regardless selling small quantities of loss-making car was never an option. Bahar had to roll the dice and as he was once good enough to tell me, not even he knew whether it would work or not. But the choice as he saw it was not between the old way and his way, but between his way and no way. No Lotus, in effect. It’s a point I took on board then and continue to do so now.

So, and for the avoidance of doubt and speaking on behalf of lovers of fine cars, great engineering and one of the world’s greatest sports car marques, my fondest wish is for Lotus to emerge from the change of ownership of its parent company fully funded and fully supported. I hope it delivers on the promises of its CEO and proves completely wrong all those, myself included, who have from time to time cast doubt on its direction. And fun to read though it was, I hope it never again feels the need to issue another press release like that.

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