Renewed rumours surfaced this weekend that Malaysian carmaker Proton, the company that owns Group Lotus, may be about to sell a majority stake in Group Lotus to Renault
F1 team owner Genii.
Group Lotus already have strong links with the Renault
team, with Renault
F1 currently in the process of applying to the F1 ruling body to change its name to Lotus in 2012. Group Lotus is already the title sponsor of the team, making it formally known as Lotus Renault
GP - which has been the source of confusion given that a Team Lotus already exists in the paddock.
Assuming that the name change goes through it now seems that Luxembourg-based investment firm Genii Capital, led by Gerard Lopez and his business partner Eric Lux, wants greater ties between the two organisations by bringing them under common ownership. Lopez himself is already the chairman of the Lotus Renault
Group Lotus chief Dany Bahar has been quoted in the media in recent days as insisting that "When we made the announcement about our involvement in Lotus Renault
GP we made it clear that this was the start of a close relationship and this journey continues."
Proton have issued a statement insisting that they are not about to offload the loss-making subsidiary, which is in the second year of a five-year $750 million plan to turn around its fortunes.
"Proton and Lotus have reached a juncture whereby the market is eagerly waiting for Lotus' new products and all our energy and efforts have to be channelled towards achieving this critical goal," they said, pointing to the forthcoming launch of a number of new models including a new Esprit supercar, Elite grand tourer, Eterne four-door coupe, Elan sports car, Ethos city car and a new Elise.
"The alleged moves between Group Lotus and Genii Capital are untrue and the news is highly speculative in nature. Proton's relationship with Group Lotus is as good as it has ever been," they continued, denying the sell-off rumours.
"The scope of Lotus' involvement in F1 as title sponsor to Lotus-Renault GP is to create dynamic marketing and branding synergies," it continued. "Proton does not wish to further entertain any unsubstantiated news of speculative nature and we hope this statement will put all speculation to rest."
It's expected that the dispute over the use of the 'Lotus' name in F1 will be resolved over the winter, with the current Team Lotus set to change its name to Caterham in 2012 freeing up the Renault
team to take up the mantle.
However, approval for the renaming has to go to the F1 Commission after Ferrari, Sauber and HRT all requested the matter should be debated formally rather than submitted to a vote-by-fax as there were concerns over spectator confusion over the renaming.