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In a recent interview with Top Gear UK, Dany Bahar has finally revealed the details on what went down during his tenure at Lotus, the surprise DRB-Hicom takeover of Proton and the somewhat overly ambitious plan involving five new Lotus models at the 2010 Paris motor show.

Bahar joined Lotus as its CEO back in 2009, not before being personally selected by outgoing Ferrari chairman, Luca di Montezemolo, to helm several new initiatives to propel the brand forward. Prior to Ferrari, he had helped Red Bull, in 2002, diversify the brand’s presence into NASCAR and football with several team acquisitions.

On his plans for Lotus when he joined, Bahar had stated that he saw similarities between the brand and Ferrari as Lotus possessed a heritage that held vast potential – from “the 007 Esprit. The Ayrton Senna connection. The JPS cars. Seven F1 world championships…All there.”


Left; Lotus Elite. Right; Lotus Esprit

With that mind frame in set, Bahar unveiled his most ambitious plan for Lotus when it chose to unveil five new models – Esprit, Eterne, Elise, Elan and Elite. Bahar himself told Top Gear UK that turning up at the Paris motor show with one car was “not earth-shattering” enough, thus going in with ambitions to make “four, five cars”, with people’s reaction being “positive, [and] some negative.”

Bahar’s intentions for the five-model plan was clear from the beginning. He wanted to drum up as much attention as possible with a plan like that in order to “make a lot of noise and demonstrate real intent, because nobody would have cared otherwise.” It certainly worked because, according to him, “big-name automotive suppliers weren’t interested in working with us…[but it] all changed when they saw the plan.”

When asked about the criticism that was levelled at him about his plans, Bahar countered, stating that even back in the days of Colin Chapman, it was already a known fact that Lotus would not be able to survive selling small, affordable sports cars. Bahar wasn’t interested in ruining Lotus’ heritage by expanding its lineup for Chapman himself was already working on more expensive cars at the end of his era.

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On arriving at Lotus, Bahar says that plans to move Lotus upmarket with new models were already in the works by Proton long before he was drafted on board. Talks between him and Proton began during a meeting at a motor show in which the company expressed interest in his plans – “I guess they liked my approach – it was new and fresh.”

Everything seemed to be panning out for Bahar and his team at Lotus until circumstances went awry. While most would be quick to point the finger at Proton and its management of the Lotus brand, Bahar says that the “Proton relationship was fantastic. The key people supported us, and got the vision.” What exactly went wrong with the relationship, then?

“DRB-Hicom bought Proton. It came as a total surprise. Proton didn’t even know it was coming.” Unfortunate news, considering that the Esprit was delayed for six months but it was already on course for 2014. “We were weeks away from the first prototype hitting the road. I believe it would have changed the economics at Lotus completely.”

What made the situation that bit more difficult to swallow was the fact that Bahar was quoted as saying that the “engine [in the Esprit] is fantastic, there’s some amazing technology there, but they didn’t even look at it. They simply cancelled everything.” Bahar wasn’t even concerned with the limelight of success when he said that “I don’t even care if someone else takes the credit…but at least take the car and make it a success.”

When the dust had settled on the mess, Bahar claims that all is behind him and that he has moved on from the Lotus saga. “My reputation isn’t my number-one concern; it never was…I’m happy, I’ve moved on already.” What had really affected him was the damage it did to his team who had placed their trust in him and were disappointed. “I was emotional about that,” said Bahar.

With that chapter closed, what’s the next step for Dany Bahar? Ares. According to him, Ares “is a new kind of automotive atelier created specifically to cater for people who need a car that’s unique, hand-crafted and extraordinary.” Think of it as Bahar’s interpretation of Ferrari’s Atelier programme. Ares positions itself as an independent atelier, responding to individual needs for custom sports cars, SUVs, the whole nine yards.

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For now, at least, the future appears relatively bright for Bahar and company as they undertake a completely new project. With the Lotus episode behind him, it is rather surprising that Bahar hasn’t considered jumping industries entirely. We will be looking forward to hearing more from the Bahar camp in the near future.