Lotus CEO Dany Bahar is eying a possible sale or spin-off from Malaysian parent Proton. When he quit a top marketing job at Ferrari in fall 2009 to become chief executive of Lotus Cars, 37-year-old Dany Bahar already had considerable knowledge of motorsports and brand-building — but little experience in running a car company, even one as small as Lotus.
Now 39, with 20 months under his belt at the helm of the tiny British sports car specialist, Bahar has embarked on an ambitious program to greatly expand the Lotus product portfolio, reposition the brand as a premium competitor to Porsche and boost annual sales volume to 6,000-8,000 cars by mid-decade, with about one-third of those going to the U.S. market.
He also thinks the time may be right to separate from Malaysian parent Proton, which has owned Lotus since 1996.
At a private roundtable with journalists last week, Bahar said he believes a company the size of Lotus cannot develop cars that meet emissions and crash regulations on its own — it has to be linked to a larger global automaker, such as Toyota, through either an alliance or even a sale. Alternatively, the company could be spun off, floated and publicly traded.
In the meantime, Bahar is positioning Lotus as what he calls a premium sports-car maker rather than a luxury one like Ferrari. Porsche’s positioning and model range (except for SUVs) is the target, in pricing terms, models and quality, if not volume. That said, Bahar’s mid-decade sales target for Lotus of 8,000 cars could rise in the longer term.
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