Minister joins Group Lotus to fly flag for car industry
Business minister Mark Prisk was flying the flag for the British car industry on Wednesday stopping off to meet Group Lotus boss Dany Bahar at the Frankfurt International Motor Show.
With growth forecasts stalling and figures out yesterday showing rising unemployment particularly among 18 to 24-year-olds, Mr Prisk was keen to stress how the government is working hard to persuade multinational car firms in Germany and France to work closely with the British-based engineers and supply companies.
The Malaysian-backed manu-facturer which has unveiled plans to make five new Lotus models, has submitted a second bid for government funding to kickstart its expansion plans after failing with a regional growth fund application earlier this year.
Ministers are expected to make a final decision shortly and Mr Prisk said that the government had been impressed with the quality of all the submissions, including that of Group Lotus.
'It's a bit early to say where they have got to at the moment,' Mr Prisk said. 'But I was very encouraged by the meetings with Dany Bahar. The company has put in its bid for regional growth funding and we are in the process of going through that.
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'Both the secretary of state and myself have engaged with them.
'We've got the experts going through all 400 bids and very shortly Michael Heseltine and Ian Wrigglesworth will be putting their thoughts to ministers. I want to fly the flag for UK-based businesses but also make sure that the opportunities for the major suppliers for car manufacturing are better understood by the major multi-national supply chain companies,' he said.
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Mr Bahar said the motor show was a chance for Group Lotus to showcase three new models, the Exige S, the Exige R-GT, and the Elise S. And he reaffirmed the company's commitment to its Norfolk base in Hethel. 'It's never been in question,' he said. 'We are investing more than �80m upgrading our facilities. There was never a question as to whether Norfolk or Hethel would be an adequate place to manufacture our cars.
'We have just hired more than 100 engineers in the last 12 months. Nobody should doubt we have the capacity.
'We've always been a niche manufacturer but we will serve different markets.
'I think that we have shown that although there may have been some concerns about the new product range that we will not forget our current client group.'