​Disgraced Lotus CEO Dany Bahar Is Starting A Coachbuilding Company

Illustration for article titled ​Disgraced Lotus CEO Dany Bahar Is Starting A Coachbuilding Company

You remember Dany Bahar, right? The Red Bull exec turned Ferrari lifestyle guru who took over Lotus, promised the world, trotted out a bunch of concepts and B-list actors, and was later axed then sued? Yeah, that guy. He wants to rebody your car for $1.1 million.

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In his first real interview after getting canned, Bahar expounded on how Lotus' then-new owners screwed him over, why debuting five cars made sense, how close the Esprit was to production, and, oh, yeah, he can't talk about that lawsuit that was settled out of court.

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Illustration for article titled ​Disgraced Lotus CEO Dany Bahar Is Starting A Coachbuilding Company

What he could discuss was his new project, Ares Performance, where he'll take your Aston Martin Rapide, Lamborghini Huracán, Bentley Continental GT, Rolls-Royce Wraith, or Land Rover, and customize it to your heart's content. And it all starts at around 700,000 pounds (or over $1.1M)

Ares is a new kind of automotive atelier created specifically to cater for people who need a car that's unique, hand-crafted and extraordinary. Maybe you remember Ferrari's Atelier and Special Projects division? That 
started during my time in Maranello. Now imagine an independent atelier, where you have access to all the brands and can respond to client requests for sports cars, SUVs, shooting brakes… It opens up a whole world of possibilities. We're only changing the parts that are visible to the client, like a total makeover inside and out, and we leave the hard points, the mechanical structure, the electronics infrastructure and the suspension untouched.

To Bahar's credit, he's assembled a solid team, with former AMG COO Wolf Zimmermann and Lotus' former lead design Mihai Panaitescu on board. And the machines on the Ares site look phenomenal, including a shooting brake version of both the Rapide and Continental GT – that's assuming they exist.

Illustration for article titled ​Disgraced Lotus CEO Dany Bahar Is Starting A Coachbuilding Company
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The full interview over at Top Gear is worth the read, if for no other reason than to get Bahar's perspective on what went down in Hethel and why he moved to – where else? – Dubai.

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DISCUSSION

TG: Did the criticism and depth of feeling surprise you?

DB: It prompted a lot of internal discussions. Back in Colin Chapman's 
day, he knew he couldn't survive with small, affordable cars – unless you're selling 50,000 of them. It's just not practical, and also impossible with Lotus's facilities. He knew that, and we knew that, but suddenly it looked like a bulldozer had arrived to ruin the Lotus legacy. But that wasn't the legacy! Towards the end of the Chapman era, he was working on more expensive V8 cars… Lotus had endured 
15 years of losses. The combination of 
low volume, low price, high production costs and low margins… it won't work. 
And you don't need to be a rocket scientist to see that. [pause] We should have communicated more efficiently to the real brand adherents that there would always be a lightweight, stripped-out Lotus. But equally, they would have to accept a bigger car, a different-looking car, because that's the model that would keep paying the salaries and keep subsidising the unprofitable stripped-out cars.

I agree with this completely. Sure, it's super risky for image, but Lotus needs some kind of funding coming in, in the form of a practical vehicle.