East Anglia: Lotus boss dismissed

Norfolk car maker Lotus appears poised for another change of direction after its Malaysian owners dramatically put the brakes on the tenure of chief executive Dany Bahar.

Mr Bahar, who has been suspended for the last two weeks, was yesterday dismissed by new owners DRB-Hicom, who have placed one of their own officials behind the wheel of the loss- making car firm. The move came after DRB-Hicom had removed him from his post following an audit into the running of the company and an unspecified complaint against him by the conglomerate.

Staff at Lotus’s south Norfolk HQ in Hethel were told the news yesterday. News of his dismissal was released in a brief six- paragraph statement issued at 6pm last night.

However, DRB’s group managing director Dato’ Sri Haji Mohd Khamil Jamil insisted the conglomerate remained committed to the “ongoing and future” operations of Lotus, and it planned to take the company to the “next level to remain relevant in the global automotive industry”.

“I look forward to bringing mutual benefits to not only DRB-HICOM and PROTON Holdings Berhad but also the Lotus Group and its employees as well as contribute to the growth of the British automotive industry,” he said.

Mr Bahar’s sacking is sure to raise questions about the future of the ambitious five-year turnaround plan he had embarked on to transform Lotus from a niche company into a specialist sports car maker originally based on the production of five new models, which was set to create more than 1,000 new jobs.

And with business secretary Vince Cable also stressing recently that the government stood ready to reactivate a �10m loan from its regional growth fund to support the plan, all eyes will now be on whether that pledge and the amount of cash available will change.

Most Read

Mr Bahar has declined to discuss the situation publicly.

Executives DRB remained tight lipped about the exact reasons for his departure only repeating that the action followed an investigation into a complaint against him.

His departure has paved the way for DRB-Hicom to parachute in its head of vehicle manufacturing projects Aslam Farikullah as Group Lotus chief operating officer, who had already been drafted in to oversee the day-to-day running of the company during Mr Bahar’s suspension.

The short statement from Group Lotus yesterday said: “Group Lotus plc can today confirm that, Mr Dany Bahar has been terminated from his employment as Chief Executive Officer of Lotus with immediate effect.

“The decision was made by the Board of Group Lotus plc following the results of an investigation into a complaint made against him by the company’s penultimate holding company, DRB-HICOM Berhad.”

The firm, which bought the car maker’s parent company Proton in January has re-iterated it was not selling Lotus, and has recently engaged on a charm offensive to allay fears that it may be about to sell off the car maker, putting at risk the fate of the existing 1200 Norfolk-based staff.

But DRB said recently its review had raised the issue of �270m of loans to support Lotus, which had been guaranteed by Proton at the end of 2010, and its review had become “especially pertinent” as a result.