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New Anglia chairman Andy Wood makes case for Lotus to DRB-Hicom

PUBLISHED: 06:30 05 May 2012

New Anglia LEP chairman Andy Wood

New Anglia LEP chairman Andy Wood

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The Malaysian owners of Lotus Cars are facing fresh lobbying to persuade them to keep production of the iconic brand in Norfolk.

This week saw Dato’ Sri Haji Mohd Khamil Bin Jamil, managing director of DRB-Hicom fly into Britain to hold talks with business secretary Vince Cable over the future of the company.

The government has stated it is ready to release more than £10m from its regional growth fund to support a multi-million pound plan to step up production at the Hethel-based facility and create more than 1,000 new jobs.

The funding award, which was agreed last year, had been put on hold following the sale of Proton amid growing uncertainty about the future of Lotus and DRB’s plans for the car maker as rumours circulated that the company could be sold to a Chinese buyer with production shipped overseas.

With prime minister David Cameron also raising the issue with his Malaysian counterpart, pressure was on DRB to show its hand and this week, the DRB boss, who has moved to bolster the management team at Lotus, also visited Hethel to hold talks with chief executive Dany Bahar.

Now, Andy Wood, chairman of the New Anglia, local enterprise partnership, has written to him to make the case for the firm’s continued investment in Lotus.

Following the speculation, New Anglia established a working group to support the firm and in his letter, Dr Wood welcomed DRB’s purchase of Lotus.

“Group Lotus has a distinguished history and an internationally recognised brand,” he said. “We are keen to see the business continue to grow under your ownership in Norfolk. We believe there are compelling reasons for continued investment in Group Lotus and its Hethel facilities.”

Dr Wood said: “Group Lotus is a key employer in our area and it is important that we engage in a positive way with its new owners and make the case for continued investment in the company and its highly skilled workforce.”

It has also emerged that Lotus has secured enough investment from DRB-Hicom to restore full car production at its Hethel assembly plant and continue building-up to the launch of the first of its new-wave models, the Esprit supercar in 2013.

Motor industry press reports suggest Lotus should be making Elises, Exiges and Evoras at a combined rate of 44 cars a week, and will be continuing to spend on the development of the Esprit.

But despite the funds and a welcome announcement from the firm that it has not decided to sell Lotus, policymakers are maintaining the charm offensive to secure DRB’s ongoing commitment to the firm as it considers its longer term future.

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