Back in July, Lotus announced that they would be implementing a new business plan with “much more realistic” goals. The annoucement follows the massive fallout with former CEO Danny Bahar (which included auctioning off his personal Lotus Esprit company car), and the subsequent PR disaster. In the new plan Lotus plans to cut four out of the five horrendously bloated, under-styled, marketing department driven models that appeared at the Paris Motor Show in 2010.
The plan will cut the jobs of 50 engineers associated with the projects, but leaves the Lotus Esprit reboot project intact. The drastic change in strategy is an effort to keep Lotus as close to its roots as possible, while establishing attainable goals that will ultimately guarantee the company’s survival. We couldn’t be happier. In celebration we’re going to introduce a series of posts dedicated to the philosophy at the core of Lotus. Simplify, then add lightness.
Why get so excited about car business news? Because Lotus’ decision signifies that not all car companies are defined by the bottom line of P&L statements. It means the good folks care about more than just branding, and pimping out the logo on clothes made by kids in third world countries. There are many companies who do that already, one of them is Ferrari and the other is BMW.
From an enthusiasts standpoint the efforts to leverage their respective brands have actually hurt their brands more than help them. The cars Lotus had planned to build under Danny Bahar would have served to reverse the decades of struggle and sacrifice that had given the British manufacturer several lifetimes’ worth of goodwill.
The plan to build five similar looking models was an effort to mimic the successes of others. Going down the path of BMW or Ferrari would have beeen disastrous for Lotus, ruining the cool factor acquired through years of toiling by engineers, and blood shed by racecar driers.
Lotus is cool, in the way that Ferrari and BMW used to be, in a way that Subaru can be, and in a way that Porsche currently is.What Porsche and Lotus share is a philosphy, a sense of meaning and purpose behind all the cars they build. A Porsche whether its a Cayenne, a 911 or a Panamera is instantly recognizable as a Porsche by those who know Porsche. Lotus is the same way, and the crux of that rests on the notion of lightweight and simplicity.
Simplify, then add lightness is a mantra first coined by Lotus founder Colin Chapman. It’s what drove Lotus to the paramount of success in sportscar and Formula One racing. It makes a lot of sense, a simpler car has fewer moving parts and less things can go wrong. While a lighter car can deal with surface changes with grace, have a comfortable ride yet still handle incredibly well. This is what Bahar wanted throw out the window in an effort to increase sales and conquer an increasingly diversified sports car market. The worst thing you can do when you’re a niche sports car manufacturer is attempt to not be a niche sports car manufacturer.
Which is why we’re praising Lotus and Subaru (Toyota as well) for having the balls to build simpler cars focused on driving, when everyone else is making more complicated cars focused on entertainment. We’re glad some are taking time to develop world class traction control systems with limited resources, building practical and quick everyday cars, firing arrogant CEOs, and spending countless hours fine tuning the first great handling affordable RWD car in a very long time.
So if you still don’t get why this is awesome news allow us to elaborate over the next few weeks through a new series of posts. In these posts we’re going to look at some of the most stripped down, minimalist cars and give you the run down on why we think they’re awesome. We doubt any product development team outside of Mazda is going to take us seriously, but maybe they should.
Think about it if Lotus axing its fat boy models, and cutting the balls off of an arrogant CEO turns me on this much, imagine what I’d think about a lightweight car that I can actually afford.
If you’re a believer in simplify, then add lightness (S.T.A.L) be sure to drop us a line or hit us up on Facebook about the cars you want to see and we’ll do our best to dig up some interesting stories for you. We’ll kick things off in the upcoming weeks with the 50th Anniversary of the Lotus Elan. In the meantime check out this video of Harry Metcalfe’s personal Lotus Elan to see what we’re “getting on about”:
UPDATE: The Lotus Esprit project has also received the ax. R.I.P.