Proton unit Lotus turnaround on track, it seeks higher sales

  • Business
  • Tuesday, 04 Feb 2014

PETALING JAYA: Proton Holdings Bhd’s performance car unit Lotus, which has received over £100mil in investment from parent DRB-HICOM BHD since the takeover, is on a turnaround path with increased sales and production.

Global performance for 2013 was particularly strong especially in its home turf in the UK with an 86% increase in retail sales, while production of cars for global demand increased by 31% to 1,368 units from 1,038 units, pushing its waiting list to four months for customers.

“Given the positive results achieved so far and the upbeat momentum going forward, coupled with what is in store in the years to come, we believe Lotus could turn around,” Proton deputy CEO Datuk Lukman Ibrahim told StarBiz.

Besides the Lotus cars division, its Lotus motorsport division sold 66 racing cars in 2013, compared with 27 in 2012, while its engineering arm was working with more major original equipment manufacturers that it did last year, and had about 120 engineering projects on its books currently.

In a recent media visit, Lukman mentioned that Lotus would be out of the woods in another year or two.

Before the takeover by DRB-HICOM in 2012, Lotus had taken a £270mil syndicated loan at the end of 2010 for which Proton had given its corporate guarantee.

“We have restructured and stabilised the Lotus business over the last 18 months, and part of that involved cutting overhead costs significantly, and increasing levels throughout the whole manufacturing process from the supply chain through to production,” he said.

He said Lotus has also expanded its dealer network globally, with new dealership and showrooms in Singapore, Dubai, Germany, Italy and the UK.

“We are putting even more efforts into China and Hong Kong with a proactive team based there. We have a number of exciting new projects under development.

“We have a long-term vision for Lotus to be at the forefront of automotive technology and innovation, which is why we are laying the foundation for growth,” he said. Lotus recently received a £10.44mil grant from the British government, in recognition of its future plans.

Lukman said (the grant) not only signified the confidence that the British government had in Lotus, but also showed that there was belief in the general direction of the brand, and what Lotus could offer to the automotive industry.

“We will invest this (grant) in research and development of products, along with staff training leading to the creation of 313 new full time jobs to support producton over the coming years,” he said.

The motorsport industry has been abuzz with renderings of a Lotus performance motorcycle, Lukman said it was purely a licensing agreement between Lotus (under the previous management) and a motorsport team.

“The motorsport team has now outsourced much of the engineering. Lotus has not contributed to the design, development, testing, and will not be manufacturing the bike,” he said.

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