At about 5pm yesterday, amid rumours of a company in crisis, Lotus sent out a flabbergasting press release that instantly sent Twitter loopy. The company also posted it to the Facebooks, because Lotus listens to rap music and hangs out with celebrities these days, so it's cool enough to do social networking LOL. (The rumour it's about to close its Facebook account and start a Myspace page is, we're told, totes a lie and that.)
The press release was written in direct response to a Photoshop job on satirical motoring website Sniff Petrol. Here's the post. But, as it turns out, Sniff was just the straw that broke the Elise's roof - Lotus has all manner of axes to grind...
Winding Lotus right up are reports that its CEO has left, and the company is about to go into administration.
Now, it's not unusual for a company to rebuff claims that it's in trouble, be it for tactical or genuine reasons. However, it's the rambling, unguarded, highly non-corporate nature of Lotus's denial that's so unbelievable. Someone get Lotus a cheeseburger, quick!
Ever since the 2010 Paris Motor Show, when Lotus officially went mental, the company has seemed fixated on becoming the Charlie Sheen of the automotive industry.
For those that don't remember, Paris 2010 was when Lotus, entirely out of the blue, unveiled six new cars, all at once. Brian May and one of the Baldwin brothers were there too, for...um...sandwiches? It was never clear.
For a Volkswagen or Toyota that would be ludicrously ambitious (making the cars, not getting the celebs), what with the development cost of making even one decent model easily running into hundreds of millions. But for a Lotus...well, it's like Jedward proclaiming they're going to record a six-part concept album that will artistically and commercially eclipse anything The Beatles have ever done. With straight faces.
But Lotus was adamant that the Elise (around £35,000), Elan (£75,000), Esprit (£110,000), Elite (£115,000), Eterne (£120,000) and a hybrid city car (£20,000) would all come before 2016. The company called it 'Lotus New Era', capped up like a proper noun because It's Definitely Going To Happen.
Since then there's been virtually zero talk of the cars themselves, but Lotus has embarked upon a publicity trail whose highlights have included starting a pretentious lifestyle magazine, featuring ladies' nipples and everything; releasing a 'Freddie Mercury' edition of the Evora; selling the rights to its name to an F1 team, then deciding it wanted it back; and our favourite, appointing rapper Swizz Beatz as Vice President of Creative Design.
It's all quite some departure from the old image of blokes knocking up brilliant little sports cars in a big barn in Norfolk. Some might say a catastrophic one. Others hilarious. Others genius.
There's one constant here, though: Dany Bahar. All this stuff has happened entirely on his chunky, diamond-encrusted, 24-carat watch. The former Ferrari and Red Bull marketing man was appointed Lotus CEO in 2009. He couldn't have been more gung-ho if he'd taken over Del Monte and turned it into a Greggs-rivalling sausage roll chain.
And so we arrive at yesterday tea time, when any notion that Lotus's public relations campaign was all just some very big, very clever ironic joke fell apart like an Elan's grab handle.
Here's the release, in full. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin...
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story...
Take a little look at what we found online. [Link ours] Don't you think it's funny? We do. We had a good old giggle. After all, we love a bit of self irony, just as well really. Although it's funny, this one's not accurate but then again, why let the facts get in the way of a good story? The inconvenient truth is – surprise, surprise – we have never said that there are no problems at Lotus.
So whilst lots of people obviously feel the need to comment on Lotus' current situation in the absence of proper facts or evidence, we can't ignore these particular mistruths any longer even if we would like to, so we have decided to turn a negative into a positive and use this hilarious piece of 'art' to set the record straight regarding the status quo at Group Lotus and try to return a little stability to a fast changing situation.
False rumour #1: Dany Bahar is no longer CEO of Group Lotus.
Fact: Rubbish – Dany Bahar still is.
False rumour #2: Dato' Sri Syed is no longer Managing Director of Proton.
Fact: Again rubbish. He still is.
You can thank good old Tony Fernandes for these two. Don't take everything he tweets too seriously – perhaps he's still frustrated about owning Caterham instead of Lotus and the fact that he fights HRT and Marussia instead of Mercedes and Ferrari in F1.
And whilst we're on the subject of jokes - do you know the latest F1 joke? Mike Gascoyne, Caterham Group's Chief Technical Officer, has gone missing. Why? He's looking for the 30 to 40 points he predicted for the last F1 season. Funny.
Speaking of F1: It seems that one special so called 'independent' source is at the root of the lion's share of damaging rumours and misleading stories. The delightful Joe Saward which leads us nicely to....
False rumour #3: Joe Saward is JUST an independent journalist.
Fact: He is an active Director for the Caterham Group.
And unlike some, we don't want to get too personal, so we'll leave it to you to judge how 'independent' his stories about Lotus are.
False rumour #4: Group Lotus is no longer involved in F1.
Fact: Lotus F1 Team and Group Lotus have reshaped their commercial relationship earlier this year. The new governance agreement signifies the continued commitment of Group Lotus to the team and the sport.
Group Lotus' branding and marketing rights and subsequent activities remain unaffected by the new agreement until at least 2017. Alongside continued branding and title partnership status, Group Lotus is also the exclusive master licensee for all Lotus F1 Team merchandise.
The new agreement was reached following Group Lotus owners Proton providing team owners Genii with a £30m loan which is repayable within three years. In order to secure the loan Genii used 100% of the F1 team's assets as collateral meaning that under the conditions of the loan agreement Proton have been given full title guarantee to all plant, machinery, show cars, computers, office and the Lotus F1 Team headquarters.
In addition Proton retains the rights to purchase 10% of the F1 team. Another 10% share option will be activated if the team default on their loan obligations with Proton.
Again we leave it to your judgement how 'bad' Lotus' current situation in F1 is. And speaking of bad situations.....
False rumour #5: Group Lotus is going into administration.
Fact: Rubbish. The takeover of our parent company Proton by DRB-HICOM couldn't have come at a worse time, but up until that point Proton was (and still remains) fully committed to our five year business plan to create jobs and to expand the factory and business. With the takeover process the funding has been restricted and DRB-HICOM is taking time to understand what to do with the business. DRB-HICOM is currently in the middle of due diligence of Group Lotus and there have been and continue to be positive discussions between Group Lotus senior management and senior management at DRB-HICOM both here in Hethel and in Malaysia. At no point has DRB-HICOM indicated to Group Lotus that it intends to put the company into administration. The over-active rumour mill is seriously damaging our business reputation, image and credibility but it is what it is.
The simple fact is, and we haven't denied this - Lotus is going through a very difficult phase at the moment but we are showing true fighting spirit every day in trying to keep this vision alive. This is also a fact – no matter what people outside of Lotus may say or tweet or blog.
So there you have it. Utterly, utterly awesome.