Vince Cable holds Lotus talks with DRB-Hicom boss
PUBLISHED: 06:30 04 May 2012 | UPDATED: 10:16 04 May 2012
Business secretary Vince Cable yesterday discussed the future of Norfolk car maker Lotus in a face-to-face meeting with the boss of new owner DRB-Hicom stating the government stood ready to “reactivate” a £10m pledge to support the firm’s development plans.
Hicom’s group managing director Dato’ Sri Haji Mohd Khamil Bin Jamil flew into the UK for the talks which were organised in the past week and come days after the Malaysian owners, who bought parent company Proton in January, insisted they would seek a “win-win” solution for the company’s 1,200 staff and the wider community when deciding the future of the car maker.
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, who has pushed to secure the future of Lotus in Norfolk amid speculation that the company could be sold off to a Chinese buyer, also held talks with the car boss.
The DRB chief also spent most of the day at the car maker’s Hethel base on Wednesday, where he held talks with Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar.
A spokesman for the department for Business Innovation and Skills described the meeting with Dr Cable as “very constructive”.
“We emphasised the importance of Group Lotus as part of the UK automotive sector and the Norfolk economy,” he said.
“We made a strong case for long-term commitment to the UK by pointing out our good track record of attracting inward investment by other global manufacturers.”
The government has put on hold a £10m pledge from its regional growth fund to support plans to develop four new models and create 1,000 new jobs until the future of the company is determined, but the firm was told ministers were willing to see the deal get back on track.
“DRB-Hicom understands the value of the Lotus brand and the need for it to be retained in Norfolk,” he added.
“They are supporting the company financially, but have not made decisions yet pending the full outcome of their operations audit.
“The secretary of state said that we stand ready to reactivate the Regional Growth Fund offer to support their vehicle development plans in Norfolk.”
Mr Bacon said: “It was very clear that he was acutely aware of the sensitivity of the issue in terms of the local community and local jobs and I was very reassured by that.”
Andy Wood, chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We are very pleased that DRB-Hicom’s managing director has come to the UK to see Lotus for himself and to meet with the government.
“We’re very keen to ensure that DRB-Hicom recognises the qualities of Group Lotus and its employees.
The business has a world class brand, a long track record of engineering expertise and a portfolio of high quality products.
“We look forward to working with HRB-Hicom and its management team in the weeks ahead.”