APRIL 27, 2011
Team Lotus consortium buys Caterham
Tony Fernandes and the Malaysian consortium behind Team Lotus has confirmed the purchase of the Caterham Cars business at an event at Duxford Aerodrome in England.
Fernandes says he intends to closely link the F1 team and Caterham but denied that he has purchased the company in case he loses the court dispute with Group Lotus and the rights to use the Lotus name in F1. He has no immediate plans to rebrand the F1 team Caterham. He will, however, look to race in GP2 under the Air Asia Caterham banner as and when this is facilitated by the regulations.
Caterham acquired the rights to build cars based on the Lotus 7 from Lotus founder Colin Chapman in 1973 under a business run by Graham Nearn. The Nearn family sold out to ex-Lotus executive Ansar Ali in 2005, backed by Corven Ventures.
With a number of worldwide Caterham championships as well as the road car side, Caterham is a profitable business in its own right and it is understood that the first contact with Fernandes came from Ali at the back end of last year.
The existing management team will continue to run the company. Under Ali, Caterham has expanded its exports and introduced its first new model in 15 years, the SP/300R sports prototype racer for the race and track day community.
"Caterham has a unique place at the heart of the motoring world," Fernandes said. "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. Caterham Cars has remained wholly faithful to Colin Chapman's philosophy of 'less is more', and the DNA of the original Seven can still be traced in the newest additions to Caterham's product offering."
Ansar Ali added: "Until now, the resources Caterham has had at its disposal have, naturally, limited the exposure of the Caterham experience and the legendary Seven has had to rely almost entirely on its remarkable reputation and legacy. We will remain entirely true to the philosophy that we, as custodians of one man's motoring concept, have protected for nearly 40 years. However, the acquisition of the company by Team Lotus Enterprise will allow our existing management team to take Caterham's core spirit of pure driving enjoyment to a hitherto unserved audience. While the Seven will now have the global springboard it deserves and will continue to be evolved yet further, we also have the opportunity to expand the Caterham family beyond the Seven and SP/300."
Plans to do a similar thing with the Lotus brand, using the F1 presence as a marketing tool was obviously in Fernandes' mind from the outset, but the ambitions of Dany Bahar and Group Lotus to take the brand upmarket into Ferrari/Porsche territory and the subsequent licensing disputes have intervened, even if the ultimate outcome of both the court case and the Group Lotus initiatives remain to be seen.
"This is our baby now and we will build from a solid base into something in the same vein as Air Asia," Fernandes commented.
Whereas with the Team Lotus name, bought from David Hunt last year, Fernandes did not have the rights to exploit the Lotus name in the road car sector, or any other save for F1 allegedly, but he will be able to do just that with Caterham, as well as launching a number of associated businesses under the Team Lotus Enterprises banner. In an ideal world produced by a favourable High Court verdict, Fernandes would look to keep the Lotus and Caterham names together but, either way, ne now has an alternative.
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