Good Oil: Lotus makes a promise it can keep
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
We’ve heard the wobbly hyperbole from Lotus before, but this time it looks like the esteemed British sports-car maker really might be on the verge of a comeback.
That’s mainly because it isn’t very British anymore. It’s mostly Chinese; the giant Geely corporation bought a 51 per cent stake in Lotus last year. And no one needs reminding that Geely has deep pockets.
It also owns Volvo and the company that makes London’s iconic black taxi cabs.
In other words, Lotus — which only sold 1600 cars globally last year — has the best shot it has had in years of regaining financial stability.
Until Geely invested, the company had sputtered along under the control of a Malaysian conglomerate for several years.
That ownership deal came about after the manufacturer’s hopelessly optimistic announcement in the late-noughties that it would build seven new vehicles under the direction of Dany Bahar.
These days, in addition to knowing the pin number for the Geely corporate credit card, Lotus even has a proper grown-up in charge — former PSA strategist Jean-Marc Gales. He is the source of the hyperbole, although he hasn’t completely lost his head.
He’s saying Lotus will produce two new sports cars by 2020, as well as an (perhaps inevitable) SUV, which will be on sale by 2022.
The company’s newest model is the Evora, which has been in production for almost a decade. Additionally, Lotus also still builds the Elise, Exige and the track-only 3-11 racer. Who knew, right?
Lotus has failed to turn a profit for several years. You’d think the rush to turn out a Porsche Macan-baiting compact SUV would be more pressing than adding another couple of low-volume sports cars to the roster.
Gales says the company will make money in 2018 and is even looking to recruit up to 300 people to help build the revitalised range.
All the manufacturer needs now is for Eon Productions to want to bring a smidge of kitsch back to the next James Bond instalment with the reintroduction of a Lotus hero car and it’ll be just like old times.
Penske still racing at 80
His stamina in the boardroom and at the race circuit is legendary. Photo / Supplied
Every now and then you come across an octogenarian who makes you say, wistfully, “I hope I have that much energy when I’m their age”.
You know the type: still driving, still chopping wood, still pretending to be deaf in order to avoid boring conversations.
Roger Penske, the man behind several race teams, as well as his own sprawling Penske Corporation, is one such fella.
His stamina in the boardroom and at the race circuit is legendary; and a tale that came in off the back of the recent Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona a couple of weeks back only serves to extend the legend.
Graham Rahal, driver with Acura Team Penske and son of another racing and team owner great, Bobby Rahal, reports that Penske stayed on the timing stand track-side for the entire 24-hour endurance race without sleep or interruption.
Oh, but it gets even better.
As soon as the race was over, Penske then immediately jetted off to a breakfast meeting in Ireland, followed by another meeting over lunch in Germany.
Jeez, he’s making the rest of us look bad. It’s enough to put you off that 3pm chocolate bar from the office vending machine.
Rahal told US outlet Autoweek; “I thought the more impressive thing is, I got an email [from Penske] the next morning apologising that he didn’t see me after the race because he had a breakfast meeting in Ireland and a lunch meeting in Germany.
“That was more impressive than anything else. The guy is a machine. He doesn’t stop,” he said. Given Rahal is a super-fit racing driver 52 years Penske’s junior, that’s high praise.
Don’t ride for me, Argentina
Here at The Good Oil offices, we’re self-confessed suckers for a well-turned out retro motorcycle.
This one is in Argentina, too, so there’s no danger we’d do something as extreme as order one for ourselves. You know, for going to meetings in the CBD and all that. Ahem.
Actually, the bike is a one-off creation; a design study in post-apocalyptic minimalism. Those are our words, rather than the team that built it. But you get the idea.
The people who designed and built it — Republica Motorcicletas — brought a 1994 Honda NX350 Sahara back to life to create this pared-down beauty.
The look of the bike was designed around the fuel tank. Rather than a mid ’80s cast-off, the tin sphere is from a 1965 Jawa. There’s lots of black mesh and brushed metal.
And aside from the fuel tank, we’re particularly partial to the bronze-tipped swan-off exhaust pipe.
It’s absolutely gorgeous. Probably far too lovely to get road grime all over. Although we’d still say yes to the opportunity to sprint it through the pampas.