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Just what is happening at Lotus?
Topgear.com learned over the weekend that Group Lotus – which encompasses Lotus Cars, Lotus Motorsport and Lotus Engineering – is the subject of a ‘winding up’ application, and is no.62 on today’s Companies Court Winding Up list. Such applications are made when a creditor, having tried and failed to secure payment, has no option but to go ‘nuclear’ and have a company’s assets liquidated.
Topgear.com has previously reported on the increasingly parlous state of Lotus’s finances, and predicted the likelihood of such ‘winding up’ applications. However, a Lotus spokesperson insisted that the application stemmed from a supplier grievance that was actually settled amicably some weeks ago. Due to the nature of the legal process, however, the action still has to be heard in court. ‘It’s business as usual up here,’ they added.
Which begs the question, what sort of business are we actually talking about? And how damaging is it to brand credibility to let a payment dispute run until it’s subject to a major court action? Rumour continues to swirl around Lotus, a situation that is exacerbated by current owner DRB-Hicom’s obstinate refusal to go public with its plans for this beleaguered but much-loved British institution.
Lotus’s spokesperson insisted that employees had been informed of DRB-Hicom’s future strategy, and that everyone was ‘fully motivated’. We’d dearly love to know what that strategy is, and recommend that DRB-Hicom share it in full as soon as possible. With no news at all on the long-delayed new Esprit and its all-new V8 engine, and the departure of Lotus’s brilliant Chief Technical Officer Wolf Zimmerman, among other engineering staff, the bigger the information vacuum becomes, the more damaging it is for the company and its prospects.
We also spoke to Richard Bacon, the Conservative MP for South Norfolk, this morning, and he suggested that while he was aware of today’s winding up application, he thought it pertained to an ‘individual plaintiff’. He also confirmed that he had introduced a deputation from DRB-Hicom to Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable in Westminster a few weeks ago. ‘Group Lotus is the single biggest employer in my constituency,’ he added, ‘so its welfare is vital.’
Topgear.com loves Lotus, and wants the company to succeed. We care about its future, and the people who work there. But we also have very grave reservations about the current owner’s management and strategy. Today’s legal activity, whatever lies behind it, does nothing to allay our fears.