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Lotus' U.S. chief departs on eve of Elise's arrival after rejecting demotion


By DALE JEWETT | Automotive News


Lotus Holdings CEO Duke Hale, left, asked Lotus Cars CEO Arnie Johnson, center, to become executive director of service and parts. Instead, Johnson left the company. The two are shown with Tony Shute, right, head of product for Lotus Cars, at the press p
Arnie Johnson, whom enthusiasts consider the soul of Lotus in the United States, is out as CEO of Lotus Cars U.S.A. Inc. after 33 years at the company.

John English, 59, who was Mazda North American Operations' regional general manager for the Southeast region until last September, replaced him on April 30.

The change comes just as Lotus prepares for a huge increase in its U.S. sales with the arrival of the Elise two-seater in July. Lotus expects to sell about 2,000 Elises a year, and its 41 U.S. dealers already have taken more than 2,000 deposits from buyers.

Duke Hale, 53, CEO of Lotus Holdings Inc., made the change. Hale, a former COO of American Isuzu Motors Inc., joined Lotus in January. He oversees the automaker's engineering and sales activities in North America. Lotus headquarters is in England.

Hale says Lotus needs to move to a "higher level" of structure and dealer support with the Elise's arrival.

Johnson was asked to become Lotus Cars' executive director of service and parts, "to use his base of expertise and continue to be a valuable asset to us," Hale says. But Johnson chose to leave the company.

"Arnie was well liked internally and by a lot of the dealers," Hale says.

Lotus enthusiasts on Internet message boards decried Johnson's leaving. Some writers urged buyers to cancel their Elise deposits.

Johnson could not be contacted.

Bill Nuccio, president of Fox Valley Motorcars of West Chicago, Ill., says Johnson will be missed.

"This guy was committed to the retail customer," says Nuccio, whose dealership has taken more than 200 deposits for the Elise. "When a customer called with a problem, he picked up the phone. At the Elise dealer launch program, he was treated like a god by the dealers and the factory people."

That bond with customers made Johnson a legend within the Lotus community.

He joined Lotus in 1971 as a U.S. distributor and became renowned for his support of racing the cars and technical knowledge. Even as Lotus changed hands several times - including ownership by General Motors, Bugatti and, currently, Malaysian automaker Proton - Johnson remained. At times, he was one of only a handful of U.S. employees.

He became president of Lotus Cars U.S.A. in 1997 and added the CEO title in 1998.

Hale says it is important for Lotus to build its infrastructure to handle and capitalize on its sales growth. He cited English's experience working with Chrysler Corp., Volvo Cars of North America Inc. and Mazda in the areas of service and parts and dealer development.

Hale and English both worked for Volvo in the 1980s and Mazda in the early and mid-1990s.

"We need to elevate the Lotus brand and the profitability of the dealers," Hale says.

The focus on building profit areas such as service contracts and accessories is important because Lotus needs to prepare for when the initial rush of Elise sales passes.

"The real test will be in years two and three of the Elise," English said. "We can't get to second base until we round first base."

But Lotus' focus will remain on dealer profitability, not growing sales by expanding the dealer base rapidly, English said. That was a valuable lesson learned while expanding Volvo in the United States, English and Hale say.

English says he expects to sign a vendor for "high-end" service contracts within two weeks. Dealers have been asked to install new signs in their dealerships and prepare to sell apparel and accessories. English wants it all ready when the first Elises arrive in July.


http://www.autoweek.com/cat_content...=carnews&loc_code=index&content_code=02629959
 

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But Lotus' focus will remain on dealer profitability
Not sure I like the sound of that. I'm not going to pull the plug on my order because of a restructure (yet), but my 'focus' is on getting a unique sportscar with amazing performance.

I think the Lotus enthusiasts would be better served with another enthusiast at the helm, which we had with Arnie Johnson.
 

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Sounds like the beginning of a Hale-storm...doesn't usually mix well with automobiles.
 

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ivan1 said:
Lotus' U.S. chief departs on eve of Elise's arrival after rejecting demotion


By DALE JEWETT | Automotive News


English says he expects to sign a vendor for "high-end" service contracts within two weeks. Dealers have been asked to install new signs in their dealerships and prepare to sell apparel and accessories. English wants it all ready when the first Elises arrive in July.


http://www.autoweek.com/cat_content...=carnews&loc_code=index&content_code=02629959
Sounds like they want to follow Mini's model... You can buy clothing and all sorts of memorabilia at the Mini dealerships.

However I can also see the foreshadowing of a price increase in this statement.
 

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ivan1 said:
Lotus' U.S. chief departs on eve of Elise's arrival after rejecting demotion


By DALE JEWETT | Automotive News

The change comes just as Lotus prepares for a huge increase in its U.S. sales with the arrival of the Elise two-seater in July. Lotus expects to sell about 2,000 Elises a year, and its 41 U.S. dealers already have taken more than 2,000 deposits from buyers.

English wants it all ready when the first Elises arrive in July.


http://www.autoweek.com/cat_content...=carnews&loc_code=index&content_code=02629959
March, April, May, June...July? Does anyone else see a trend in the Elise ETA:huh:
 

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Discussion Starter #11
He is standing behind Arnie, stabbing him in the back:D
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I am patiently being impatient, but all I can say is if they raise the price before I get mine (#13), it is an M3 or S4 convertible for me, just on principle:mad:
 

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Exactly what does a high end service contract mean? I have no idea, someone tell me please.

Got to telll you the pic in autoweek makes me like Hale even less than I already did.

Chris:(
 

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zvezdah1 said:
Exactly what does a high end service contract mean? I have no idea, someone tell me please.

Got to telll you the pic in autoweek makes me like Hale even less than I already did.

Chris:(
Guess- They are anticipating that the existing dealer network will not be able to absorb the comparatively huge numbers of services (compared to the Esprit) that will be required so they need to outsource some of that? I don't understand it either.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
maybe they are going to allow the car to be serviced at some other "high end" dealer since there are not so many Lotus dealers. Given the Toyota engine, I suppose Lexus could be a possibility.... I know whenever I get serviced, high end is the way to go:D
 

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Tip of the hat to Fox's Bill Nuccio for giving one dealers' thank you to Arnie.

This quote makes me laugh and cringe:

"The real test will be in years two and three of the Elise," English said. "We can't get to second base until we round first base."

It is my understanding there wouldn't even BE a first base w/o Arnie!

I suppose English and Hale are going to magically produce a wonder car that appeals to those potential "Anita" customers that will not find the Elise practical enough as a boulevard cruiser. Good luck;

IMHO the Elise is a niche car; enthusiasts that can appreciate and afford it is a smaller lot than these two envision. Remember a Miata at 20 to 25K is a world away from 45K for the average Joe.
 

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Despite all the doom and gloom, shouldn't we keep in mind that a car company needs to make a profit to stay in business? Would you prefer that Lotus disappears entirely rather than do what is necessary to keep functioning? Most British car makers have been absorbed by foreign owners. There must be a reason for this.

Arnie is a great guy and knows a ton about cars, but perhaps he isn't the right guy to lead Lotus into a new era of marketing and production. I can't blame him for leaving rather than accepting a demotion, but neither can I blame Lotus for making a change that they deemed necessary to further their growth. Welcome to the real world.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Is Arnie responsible for Lotus profit or lack of it in the UK, Australia or elsewhere???

His involvement was with LC USA, and as he was instrumental in getting the elise here, how can you say he is not the right person for Lotus' future???? Bringing the elise here is what may make Lotus more profitable.....
 

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While I agree with you JML that this is, unfortunately, the real world, I'm also awfully glad for you and I that we are going to be getting our Elises before the new management start adulterating the model. Because based upon what I'm reading, this seems to be the direction it's headed. Sadly.
 
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