Lotus fights rumors of bankruptcy, CEO departure by going off the chain
British automaker Lotus has grand plans for reviving its British sports car heritage around 2014 -- but its very existence has been thrown into doubt by the sale of the Malaysian firm that owns it and a break in its deal to license a Formula 1 car. To combat the growing speculation of a possible bankruptcy and departure of chief executive Dany Bahar, Lotus did what any troubled corporation does: Posts a long screed to Facebook underneath a borrowed picture of its CEO photoshopped into Baghdad Bob.
The Facebook post is a glorious bit of screeching feedback, the kind of public unloading that public relations people must dream of loosening upon their enemies. The picture -- lifted from Sniff Petrol, without permission -- comes with this statement from Lotus: "Take a little look at what we found online. Don't you think it's funny? We do. We had a good old giggle. After all, we love a bit of self irony, just as well really."
Uh, do you, Lotus PR guys? I mean, it sounds like you're typing with knots in your knickers, what with this DRB-HICOM outfit buying Lotus parent Proton and mulling whether to just give this whole "building a Porsche competitor in Britain" business a Viking funeral fueled by burning cash. That impression only gets stronger when the screed goes on to target various enemies of Lotus, including rival Malaysian magnate Tony Fernandes and a Formula 1 reporter who's written extensively about the company's struggles.
Here's the nut graf, along with the denial that Bahar has left the building:
The takeover of our parent company Proton by DRB-HICOM couldn't have come at a worse time, but up until that point Proton was (and still remains) fully committed to our five year business plan to create jobs and to expand the factory and business...At no point has DRB-HICOM indicated to Group Lotus that it intends to put the company into administration. The over-active rumour mill is seriously damaging our business reputation, image and credibility but it is what it is.
The rumors wouldn't have quite so much momentum if there was more evidence that Lotus can survive long enough to launch a few all-new models, let alone the four or five its business plan calls for. For the first three months of 2012, Lotus has sold 35 cars in the United Kingdom. Saab, a company that no longer exists and whose cars may turn into paperweights if their computer systems fail due to a lack of maintenance updates, sold 114.
I'm no PR professional, but this situation does remind me of the time in the 1970s Henry Ford II was caught inebriated behind the wheel with a winsome companion. His only line to the throng outside his court hearing became a classic around Detroit: "Never complain, never explain."
Photo courtesy Sniff Petrol