Team Lotus : Formula One Team acquires Caterham Cars Limited

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Team Lotus ties up with Caterham
Team Lotus ties up with Caterham

For anyone not up to speed with the Lotus vs Lotus saga in Formula 1, it’s been about the Group Lotus title sponsorship of the Renault F1 cars (to create the black-and-gold Lotus-Renault) and Team Lotus’ tussle for the same name (to create Team Lotus-Renault). The story has now taken another interesting twist as Team Lotus Enterprises Limited, headed by Tony Fernandes, has today announced its acquisition of Caterham Cars Limited for an undisclosed sum.

The outcome of this that Caterham Cars is now owned by Team Lotus… Confused – and ironic, given the origins of Caterham and its staple product, which is an evolution of Colin Chapman’s Lotus Seven. Despite the change of ownership, the current management structure will remain in place, leaving Caterham Cars Managing Director, Ansar Ali in charge.

Caterham will build a limited run of 25 Team Lotus Special Edition Sevens to mark the announcement – these will feature a £3000 upgrade package and a bespoke colour scheme that mirrors the green and yellow colours of Team Lotus in F1. The upgrade package will include an invitation to a customised tour of the Team Lotus F1 factory in Hingham, Norfolk.

Tony Fernandes commented: ‘Caterham has a unique place at the heart of the motoring world. As well as being proudly and staunchly British, it has an enviable and uniquely unblemished reputation within the industry for performance, handling and engineering excellence.’

Ansar Ali, added: ‘This is yet another exciting chapter in the Caterham story, and an opportunity to expand the Caterham family beyond the Seven and SP/300.R and breathe new life into our uniquely respected brand and mature it into a truly global business.’

Could this see Team Lotus and Group Lotus rivalling each other on the road as well as track? Only time will tell…

Read Lotus expert Chris Sawyer’s take on the story

[Source: Octane Magazine]

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

18 Comments

  1. DeLorean’s Accountant :
    Well, if you made this up, no one would believe you!!

    I know what you mean – I have been following this for a while now and it confuses the hell out of me. There are also the separate issues surrounding the Proton management’s infighting and funding issues with Group Lotus’ attempts to secure Government development loans. The latter really is a missed trick given the skilled engineering work force at Hethel, which could be put to good use exporting automotive technology to the fledgling eco transport industry.

    I also read that the Elise is no more due to the fact Toyota has ceased production of the engine it uses. However, surely the idea of the Elise chassis was that it could easily be adapted to take a variety of power units? That’s how the Tesla Roadster and the old Vauxhall VX220 both came to be based on the Elise chassis. There is even the American Hennessy with a huge V8 – that should, in my opinion, be called the Lotus Leviathan.

    The above story is clearly good news for Caterham Cars Limited but Group Lotus plc needs a new owner and some serious investment soon otherwise that will be the next UK-based sports car manfacturer to go into administration.

  2. @Simon Woodward
    Actually, in reality, Lotus has an almost non-existent ‘skilled engineering work force’. The company hires in the majority of its Engineers on a contract basis. It doesn’t enjoy the best of reputations amongst Engineers!

  3. @Simon Woodward
    You’re right, the whole thing is confusing. Does the fact that the Caterham 7 was originally a Lotus make it more confusing than it would be or is that just me? I’m still trying work out whether the ‘real’ Lotus F1 team is Lotus-Renault or Renault-Lotus.

    What are the chances of Team Lotus now changing their name in such a way that would not only clear up the Team Lotus/Lotus-Renault issue, but would also see Caterham on next season’s F1 grid? There’s a thought…

    By the way, where did you read about the demise of the Elise? Might it not just be a case of production being suspended due to Toyota’s supply problems following the Japanese earthquake? Mind you, if Toyota has totally stopped production of that engine, may be it’s time for Renault to step in with their Clio/Megane units – and with Zoe/Fluence/Leaf electric motors!

  4. This has me confused too – I can’t see the benefit to either party beyond maybe a legal one – and for two manufacturers that are niche and limited, it could be bad for both of them, since if one or other launches a duff model or has quality issues, it could take the whole lot down with it.

    The fact that the special run of cars is a mere 25 tells you that it’s minnow time here.
    I guess you could say, if you wanted to be cruel, that this sort of car manufacturer just isn’t up to the modern world (you know, the one without all the spare money sloshing about) and that they belong in a world somewhere between 1930 and 1970 but I think that would be a little harsh all things considered. I hope it all works out but, to be honest, I can’t really see it myself.

    Incidentally, on the V8 note, the Sunbeam Alpine + V8 made a very capable and much loved sports car way back when – a little silly for over here that’s true, but can you imagine a modern Lotus with a small V8 made up of a custom block and all the Hayabusa engine bits… Something like that would sell like hot cakes even here. Ballistic missile performance and 55mpg – what’s not to like?

  5. Ahahahaaa!! This is a spanner in the works… Crikey, who actually owns the ‘Lotus 7’ name? Is it Group Lotus in Hethel, Norfolk or Team Lotus in Hingham, Norfolk??

  6. @Simon Woodward
    Interesting you say this – an Engineer called Glen Kingham has managed to fit a transversely-mounted Rover V8 and F23 gearbox into his wife’s Vauxhall VX220 without any chassis modifications. That just shows how flexible the modular architecture of the ally chassis is.

    I would’t be surprised if they sourced engines from Renault to be honest. I doubt they’d return to the K/N/TCI Tech Series engine from SAIC/MG though as, last time round, they concluded that it was a bit of a pig in their cars. They could go back to GM again…

  7. I remember the very pretty looking Caterham 21 being launched in 1995 – a very good looking car – far nicer than the Lotus Elise – but one which seemed to enjoy only moderate success during a very short production life.

    I see potential product overlap between an ‘onwards and upwards’ approach by Caterham and the need to continue to offer a competitively priced, entry-level Lotus Elise.

  8. @David 3500
    The Caterham 21 was such a gorgeous little car – especially the polished aluminium model which did the Motor Shows at the time of its launch. The concept of the 21 reminded me of the Ginetta G4 or the original Lotus Elite. Sadly, it was always overshadowed by the Elise – it’s a shame they didn’t persevere and have a go at making various more aggressive version like the Caterham 7 JPC.

  9. @Jemma
    Lotus a did a racing version in the early days of the Elise with the Lotus V8 out of the Esprit – it was a race car only and a only a couple were made. A friend of mine had a Sunbeam Tiger – it was a hoot to drive but he now has a Daimler SP250 (Dart) which is as ugly as sin but a hell of a drive.

  10. The Caterham 21 was too basic to be successful as a mainstream sports car so there was little crossover from the hard core market, who were happy with the Seven anyway.

    It’s a bizarre situation: Team Lotus is based in Norfolk and races under the Malaysian flag in the original Lotus Green/Yellow livery, while Group Lotus sponsor the Renault team based in Oxfordshire, which now races under the British flag and in Lotus’ Black/Gold former JPS livery.

    Team Lotus now own the Caterham 7 whereas Group Lotus has vastly ambitious plans to expand into Porsche territory. Group Lotus plc is owned by Malaysian company Proton Holdings Berhad (which is, in turn, effectively controlled by Khazanah Nasional Berhad – the investment holding arm of the Malaysian Government), with endless rumours about their future, while Team Lotus is privately owned by a consortium of Malaysian entrepreneurs led by Tony Fernandes…

  11. @Mikey C
    I am totally confused by all this now. However, I think you raise an interesting point – how can Lotus Cars afford its rather ambitious plans for the showroom and further enable Caterham to have new product opportunities beyond the current Seven? Will Caterham end up moving up to Hethel or stay where they currently are, which would mean that the running costs of both would still have to be met? Where is the money to fund these grandiose plans coming from and how much is available, as someone will need rather deep pockets to finance it?

  12. @David 3500
    I think that Group Lotus plc/Lotus Cars were hedging their bets with the application for a Government loan which was rejected last week. All those proposed new models revealed at last year’s Paris Motor Show are a good trick to attract new investment. There is so much talent at Lotus Cars, surely it’s worth a punt. I thought the Lotus champion at Proton and the guy who was friends with the Malaysian PM popped his clogs hence all the infighting at Proton?

  13. @Ajax Soixantedix
    My apologies for the delay – please now see Report: Lotus to phase out Toyota-powered Elise and Exige with special Final Editions, Aaron Richardson, Autoblog.com, 16 April 2011.

    Lotus Elise and Exige production is supposed to end this July but I have so far been unable to confirm that. However, the information on Autoblog is normally more or else accurate. There is a revamped Elise with Evora-style lights due out and that was shown at the Geneva Motor Show so perhaps it’s the engine and old style Elise that ends and this is why there is some confusion.

  14. @Simon Woodward
    Well, having looked around the interweb, I reckon that it’s just the Toyota 1.8 engine used in the Elise that is no more – hence the introduction of the Toyota 1.6 engine in the latest Elise last year. The Elise will be with us for a while yet.

    This is something of a relief because, as a petrolheaded eco-weenie, I think that the Elise is perhaps the most relevant sports car available today and it would be a shame if production stopped for the want of a suitable engine.

    That said, I am beginning to wonder if the rationale behind the introduction of the 1.6 ‘base’ Elise – the loss of the 1.8 engines – means that the associated gushing about increased fuel economy and reduced CO2 emissions at its launch was tantamount to ‘greenwashing’.

    I’m normally quite cynical about that kind of thing and don’t tend to fall for such green claims. Ah well, I suppose that’s the wonder of the Elise…

  15. @Ajax Soixantedix
    I hope so – the Elise is such a great concept. The clever chassis is so light and strong – it just makes perfect sense in a no frills sports car. Cars are too fat and bloated and weighed down with too many gadgets and gizmos.

    Personally, all I want in a sports car is great steering, handling and reasonable performance – anything else just adds weight and detracts from the driving experience.

    Here’s a green thought: how about a VW Bluemotion-powered Elise? Mind you, I think Opel did something similar a while backwith a VX diesel concept – a 80mpg + Elise!

  16. The Lotus naming thing is confusing to explain to others who aren’t versed in F1. 🙂

    My prettier half asked about a particular driver – I had to explain that, although it says Lotus in huge letters on his overalls, he actually drives for Renault, which is sponsored by Lotus, while the green car is the Lotus and that’s powered by Renault…

    You now have to add into the mix the fact that the company which runs the green car also builds cars based on an old Lotus.

    I miss the old Lotus-badged and developed saloon specials of old like the Cortina, Sunbeam and Carlton. Lotus could have been a British/Malaysian-owned competitor for Cosworth.

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