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    New Lotus boss' pledge to Norfolk

    Dany Bahar

    The new boss of Lotus last night committed the firm's future to Norfolk and pledged to create a "state-of-the-art" sports car factory in the heart of the countryside - with more cars rolling off the production line than ever before.

    In his first UK interview, Group Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar revealed that the firm will spend the next two years investing in its Hethel headquarters before launching a new range of sports cars.

    The scale of the investment - and how many new jobs will be created - was unclear last night.

    But under Mr Bahar's plan, production at Hethel could rise from 3,500 cars a year today to between 6,000 and 8,000 a year within a decade.

    "We want to invest in facilities here and bring them up to speed to a state-of-the-art level of quality," Mr Bahar said.

    "I see Lotus as one of three British sports car manufacturers and they have to remain British, although they may have foreign ownership. But it's a British brand and it would be a mistake not to manufacture the car in Britain.

    "I would hope that we can make a bigger contribution to the region by increasing the value of the company - it goes without saying that increasing the value of the company means more people. It's our ambition to do so."

    Mr Bahar, a former Ferrari executive, took the top job at Lotus on October 1 after the retirement of veteran carmaker, Mike Kimberley, through ill-health.

    The new chief's pledge to invest in Lotus's operations was welcomed last night as a "vote of confidence" in Norfolk.

    Mr Bahar also said he wanted to recapture the glory days of the Lotus brand on the racetrack, with a return to Indy Car, Le Mans and GT racing.

    "I strongly believe motorsport to be a big help when you are selling and manufacturing sports cars," Mr Bahar said.

    "It's the credibility that everyone is looking at - if you are doing reasonably well in motorsport, then you must be doing something right in the road cars, because you'll be using the same technology.

    "So yes, motorsport will play a big role in supporting our sales and marketing activities for future road cars. These activities do not emerge in one day - you have to carefully plan and we have a timetable that should reach our point of launching our new products in two years time. If you look at our history, there is no other car company that has won nearly all the most important series in motor racing.

    "So why shouldn't we replicate what worked in the past? If we've had a big play in the past in Le Mans, Indy Car and GT racing, we should go there again."

    Mr Bahar added: "As a person, I like challenges and it's why I decided to join the company. I feel the Lotus brand has a lot of opportunity to offer. There's plenty of heritage, tradition and past successes.

    "I believe that in the last 15 to 20 years, the heritage, tradition and strength of brand values have rather decreased. It's easier to bring a brand back to where it was than to start a brand from scratch."

    Welcoming Mr Bahar's comments, Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, said: "It's tremendous news that Lotus is making a commitment to invest and it has serious plans for expansion. Right now, while the economy is in difficulty, not only is that a sign of confidence in the future. But it's also the right time in the economic cycle to invest - because when those investments come to maturity, we hope the economy will be in a much better state.

    "It must be right to use the heritage and power of Lotus as a racing brand to enhance the car business."

    Chris Starkie, chief executive of the economic development partnership, Shaping Norfolk's Future, said: "Group Lotus is a world class business and crucially important to the economy of Norfolk.

    "It is really good news therefore to hear the company's continued commitment to the county and of its plans to invest in its Hethel headquarters.

    "The company is showing others in the engineering and motorsport sectors what a great place Norfolk is to be based."



    Re: New Lotus boss' pledge to Norfolk

    I sense the 'next' Esprit, as one of those products !!!  Can't wait !



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