PROFITABILITY WITHIN 3 YEARS: Sportscar maker to launch new model and facelifts by 2015
PROTON Holdings Bhd's sportscar unit Group Lotus Plc is "70 per cent cleaned up" and on track to becoming profitable in two to three years.
Proton executive chairman Tan Sri Mohd Khamil Jamil said the management has identified almost all of the problems plaguing Lotus.
They include a lack of new models, quality and operational issues, low presence and negative perception of the brand, dealers network, broken promises and the car's poor visibility.
"The problem with Lotus is that it has been invisible for the past several years. We should now return to the black in two or three years," Mohd Khamil said at the launch of the HK$25 million (RM10.5 million) Singapore Richburg Lotus Motors, its first showroom in the city state, over the weekend.
United Kingdom-based Lotus, which is wholly-owned by Proton, was acquired 17 years ago but has been making losses for the past 15 years.
In 2009, the Norfolk-based sports carmaker turned in a loss of STG14.6 million (RM72 million) and, to date, has amassed total debts amounting to RM1.1 billion.
DRB-HICOM Bhd in turn bought over Proton from government-owned investment arm Khazanah Nasional Bhd and other shareholders for a total of RM2 billion last January.
Mohd Khamil said Lotus will launch facelifts of existing models and a new one by as early as 2015.
Proton deputy chief executive officer Datuk Lukman Ibrahim said Lotus' misery is also due to the appointment of wrong consultants, quality issues, work processes, poor supply of cars and participation in irrelevant motor sport programmes.
"What is important right now is that DRB-HICOM is servicing the RM1.1 billion debt.
"At the same time, Lotus is also making a revenue of STG200 million to STG300 million a year in sales and engineering services," Lukman explained.
He said Lotus' bottomline has improved and its financial results this year are going to be much better than last year.
"Lotus has a global sales volume of 1,000 units a year, of which 400 are back orders," he added.
Mohd Khamil, who is also DRB-HICOM group managing director, is confident that Lotus can return to its glory days.
He is aiming for a comfortable sales volume of around 3,500 units a year.
Founded by Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman in 1952, the British marque produces models such as the Exige, Elise and Evora.
There are more than 200 Lotus car owners in Malaysia.
Lotus cars are sold at more than 140 showrooms worldwide, including 30 Proton showrooms in Malaysia and its sole showroom in Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya.
Its biggest markets are the United States, China, Japan and Hong Kong.
Richburg Lotus Motors Singapore chairman and chief executive officer Eric Wong said the company aims to sell 20 Lotus cars a year here.
"Singapore is small but it is an important market and the city, with its global metropolitan image, is an important and integral link to Lotus Indonesia and Lotus Thailand."