Bugatti buyout to boost Lotus
By ADAM OLIVER
GENERAL Motors has sold Lotus to Bugatti International SAH, the owner of the Bugatti group of Italy.
The troubled British sports car maker has relied on just one model, the Esprit, after the acclaimed front-wheel drive Elan was axed due to high production costs 18 months ago.
The Italian company is most interested in the advanced Lotus Engineering consultancy operation, which has remained profitable and highly respected despite the troubles of the car production arm.
But Lotus will immediately benefit from the takeover with the re-introduction of the Elan model.
Bugatti chairman Romano Artioli has confirmed the Elan will be resurrected and it is thought a production run of about 800 of the soft-top sportsters will be built at the Hethel factory in Britain.
The Elan will return with only detail changes to further improve build quality, and may use the rear spoiler from the US-specification Elans.
The Isuzu engine will remain along with the front-wheel drive layout that proved so controversial with traditional Lotus buyers.
Lotus and Bugatti will remain independent companies, sharing the resources of the Lotus Engineering branch to further refine existing models and develop new cars.
Romano Artioli said: ''On a specific level, we look forward to using Lotus Engineering to accelerate our development programmes for our highly acclaimed EB 112 sports saloon car.
''On a more general level, we would like to assure Lotus' business associates and enthusiasts that, in the capable hands of Bugatti International, the image which Colin Chapman created for Lotus will be protected and strengthened.'' According to Mr Artioli, Lotus Engineering has already seen an upsurge in business since the Bugatti buyout. Three major car manufacturers have approached the firm for development work.
Mr Artioli planned an annual production of no more than 1,200 Lotus' cars. New models were likely, but future Lotus' cars may be styled in Italy rather than within the British company.