There's a lot of smoke going on over at Lotus, but we still have a while to wait before we get the first evidence of fire: the new Lotus Espirit and it's in-house V8 won't be here until 2013. On the other side of the world, there's a fair bit of smoke and fire happening at Malaysian automaker Proton, which owns Lotus.

The Malaysian government controls Proton and has been investigating a partnership for or sale of the company for a couple of years, but despite its efforts, it hasn't made any deals. The 28-year-old automaker has been losing large chunks of market share, and the government feels that sale to a well-funded global player would be the best solution to insure Proton's long-term future. Although it has named its chosen candidate for a purchase, it isn't clear if anyone has made any serious overtures to that end.

Outside observers believe the first thing Proton should do is get rid of Lotus. The mass-market Malaysian carmaker has almost nothing in common with the tiny, English niche sports car producer, and has done nothing but throw money at Lotus' carmaking arm since 1996 (Lotus Engineering, the technology consultancy, is profitable).

Proton has said it has no intention of selling Lotus. However, if Proton is sold then the new owners could reverse that stance. And if Lotus were unloaded, that puts everything CEO Dany Bahar has planned in serious doubt.


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  • 30 Comments
      Temple
      • 3 Years Ago
      Currently most of Proton's cars has little to no presence outside of their native Malaysia, they really don't have the volume to survive as an independent automotive maker. Which is why they source so many parts from Mitsubishi. The best deal for Proton, and Lotus, is to find a major automotive maker to buy a controlling interest in exchange for a constant supply of fresh models. VW deal fell through, perhaps Toyota would be a strong suitor; they could certainly use the flare that Lotus can provide. A similar deal was struck with government-owned AvtoVAZ this year with Nissan-Renault. An independent Russian maker has no hope of surviving the global automotive market without a strong benefactor that is willing to hand them technology. Nissan-Renault benefits by penetrating the Russian market, the Russian government benefits from still keeping a large chunk of the company while getting free technology and Russian manufacturing jobs. But its amazing to think how many car companies are still run by their government in so many parts of the world.
      4 String
      • 3 Years Ago
      If I was Proton's CEO, I'd keep ownership of Lotus just for bragging rights.
      ken
      • 3 Years Ago
      From a business standpoint, Lotus won't make any foreseeable profit. BUT without Lotus, Proton will have difficult time walking out of Malaysia.
      KAG
      • 3 Years Ago
      Be cool if a company like Nissan bought Lotus, then we could get Sentra's Lotus tuned.
        Blakkar
        • 3 Years Ago
        @KAG
        You don't have to buy Lotus to get them to tune a car or cars for your company. That is part of their business model. "Tuners for hire". If you need their expertise or don't have the in-house resources, you hire Lotus.
      Chase
      • 3 Years Ago
      Lotus+Jaguar+Land Rover? Perfect trifecta?
      iKingston
      • 3 Years Ago
      I like a lot of the ideas I have read in the comments below about Toyota, Nissan, Honda, LR/Jag, acquisitions. The one that caught my attention the most (sadly is the least likely) is Ford taking ownership of Lotus. IMHO, It would be a perfect marriage. Ford supplies cash and support in the way of manufacturing and possibly parts and Lotus returns the favor by tuning the crap out of Ford's already pretty good offerings (imagine what the Mustang would do to the Camaro if it were tuned by Lotus).
        evannever
        • 3 Years Ago
        @iKingston
        I think Jaguar left a foul taste for British cars in Ford's mouth.
      Avinash Machado
      • 3 Years Ago
      What about VW?
      mchlrus1
      • 3 Years Ago
      Tesla needs to buy Lotus. That would be sweet. They are two awesome companies, and I think they can have a great relationship with parts. Could you imagine a Tesla with an Exige body....ohhh.
        EV
        • 3 Years Ago
        @mchlrus1
        Yes, I can imagine, it would be a slightly tarted up Tesla Roadster....
        Evan McMiller
        • 3 Years Ago
        @mchlrus1
        Yes. It's already happened. And it was heavier and not as pretty.
      CarConvos
      • 3 Years Ago
      See my take on the situation here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DaFN79JtJM
      Outsider looking in
      • 3 Years Ago
      Lotus bet the farm on the 5 model line up and Proton was the banker who put the money up... you know what happened in the Great Financial crisis plaguing the world now.... nobody wins and a bailout is needed.... Proton should not be investing in Lotus to build an aluminium vehicle. Aluminium is not Proton's core business and they will have trouble to get trickle down technology for Proton.
      Number23
      • 3 Years Ago
      No brainer: Ford buy Lotus. Ford has a history of powering Lotus GP cars and Saloon racers AND ford has a perfect V8 for Lotus.
        tinted up
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Number23
        Ford just divested itself from the PAG; whichh forces me to seriously doubt an acquisition is in alignment with their current future product planning.
        Blakkar
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Number23
        I would agree but with the economy the way it is and FORD having to pay down significant bills before worrying about an additional debt expense, It seems unlikely. The only big players I can honestly see buying Lotus is someone in China or Hyundai/Kia. Although, whimsically, TATA could add Lotus to their collection of British car makers, McLaren buys Lotus curtailing their immediate plans to expand, or Koenigsegg buys Lotus a strong multi-pronged company were SAAB was dying before GM bought it (only because FORD bought Volvo) and wisely opted not to (See what's left of Spyker).
      Jossue Rivera
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sadly, I think Toyota (of all companies) should buy Lotus, but under one condition: Fund it, and in no way DESIGN THEIR CARS! It seems like a stretch, but Toyota has the money. I mean, Toyota sorta is physically part of every Lotus!
        Xedicon
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Jossue Rivera
        As much as the thought of owning a Toyota makes my stomach turn, Toyota has proven in times past that they can make totally bangin' awesome rides like the Supra, and they did make the MR2 a mid engine machine. They might make a good care taker strangely enough, and they have been providing engines to Lotus for a long time.
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