Team Lotus announces purchase of Caterham Cars
Hingham-based Team Lotus has bought the small UK sports car manufacturer Caterham in a deal which promises to provide a 'launch pad' for new models.
The deal was announced at an event in Duxford this morning by Tony Fernandes, who owns the AirAsia airline and is estimated to be worth �140m, as well as his partners in the Formula One team, Kamarudin Meranun and SM Nasarudin.
Caterham itself has a long history with Lotus, having originally been a dealership for the firm which grew into manufacturing its own cars using an old Lotus design.
Caterham currently produces several variants of the Seven model, which is a continuation of the Lotus Seven produced from 1957 to 1972.
The manufacturer was bought from venture capitalist group Corven, and the current management team will remain in place, including managing director Ansar Ali.
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Mr Fernandes and Team Lotus are currently fighting a court battle with the Malaysian-owned Lotus Group, the Hethel company behind the design and manufacture of Lotus road cars, over the rights to use the name in Formula One competition.
It had licensed the name last year, but switched to the historic Team Lotus brand this year, with Lotus Cars buying a stake in Renault F1 to create their own Lotus Renault GP team.
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In the current season this created an unusual situation where two groups were competing in Formula One using the Lotus name.
The case has gone to the High Court and a ruling is expected next month. The purchase of Caterham will provide another brand name steeped in motorsport history for Mr Fernandes to use in place of Lotus if his case is unsuccessful.
It will also provide a way for him to launch his own range of cars for the commercial market, with opportunities for a link to the F1 team.
Tony Fernandes said: 'Caterham has a unique place at the heart of the motoring world. As well as being proudly and staunchly British, it has an enviable and uniquely unblemished reputation within the industry for performance, handling and engineering excellence.
'Caterham Cars has remained wholly faithful to Colin Chapman's philosophy of 'less is more', and the DNA of the original Seven can still be traced to the newest additions to Caterham's product offering.
'It is already a successful business with sales across Europe, Japan, Australia and the Middle East, and under the guidance of the existing management team, we now have all the ingredients and the launch pad to further evolve that spirit and take Caterham to new exciting horizons with innovative products and greater global brand exposure.'
To commemorate the purchase Caterham will release a limited edition run of the Seven in Team Lotus colours, with only 25 available.