Proton Aims For Lotus Turnaround By 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Malaysian national carmaker Proton said Tuesday it plans to turnaround its loss-making British sports car unit Lotus in five years under a major revamp to bolster the group.

Proton Managing Director Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir said a new management team including former top executives from Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin have been appointed since October to revive Lotus as a premium sports car maker.

Proton will also deepen collaboration with Lotus with plans to jointly develop a small car -- a five-door city car for Proton and a three-door sports city car for Lotus -- in the next few years, he said.

"This is the start of a new era for Lotus...that will complement and strengthen the group. It will help accelerate the creation of a sustainable, competitive and profitable business," he told reporters.

State-owned Proton bought Lotus in 1996 to bolster its technological know-how but losses at Lotus have bled the company.

Chairman Nadzmi Mohamad Salleh said Proton has invested "quite a far bit" on Lotus but declined to give details nor say how much it will invest in the new revamp.

This was not the first time Proton has sought to revamp Lotus. In 2007, it said it spent 27 million ringgit to restructure its British unit.

"Lotus is not for sale. There are many synergies between the two companies so we have to turnaround the company. We hope to make some profits in five years," he said.

With this, Proton can leverage on Lotus strength to build better cars, improve brand awareness globally and tap new markets in Europe and U.S., he added.

Lotus new Chief Executive Dany Bahar said the company aims to raise sales by more than threefold to 8,000 cars by 2015, from around 2,500 now.

He said the aim is to transform Lotus from a track car maker into a high-end sports car maker comparable to Ferrari and Lamborghini. Lotus will unveil new surprises at the Paris Motor Show in October that will "define our future," he said but decline to give details.

Proton returned to the black in the financial year ended March but is under pressure to bolster exports for its long-term survival, but analysts said it would need to find a global partner if it wants to survive in the long-run.

Earlier this month, it said alliance talks with Volkswagen AG collapsed for the second time as the Germany carmaker has other priorities.

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