Malaysian car maker Proton and its subsidiary Lotus were reported last year to be up for sale, with a number of car makers said to be keen on a purchase.
In September, business paper Reuters reported Peugeot and Citroen parent PSA Group as one suitor, while Renault and Suzuki were also believed to be considering bids of their own.
The report suggests PSA has backed out of a potential bid, although the Financial Times claims the French company – also confirmed to be in talks over buying the Opel business from General Motors – is still in the race for Proton.
Neither company has offered confirmation, although PSA gave FT the usual line: it “regularly explores new business opportunities”.
For both companies, a purchase of Proton would mean access to a Malaysian plant capable of producing around 600,000 right-hand-drive cars each year.
It remains to be seen if the Proton badge – which carries very little brand cachet outside of Asia – would continue to be offered, although either suitor could introduce modern technology and engines to pump up Proton’s appeal.
The loss-making Lotus brand could prove more appealing from a halo and technology perspective, with the historic marque bringing a respected engineering division with it.
A report elsewhere, with the UK’s Autocar, claims that the deal could take a different shape: Geely buying Lotus for its engineering expertise and halo brand value, with the Proton brand going to PSA.
The reports adds that PSA’s interest is largely in volume, with its plan said to include expanding Proton’s production capacity to around 2 million vehicles per year.
Whatever the case, the previously confirmed Lotus SUV and new sports cars could now be in doubt, with a change in ownership sure to mean a review of future product.
Still, with SUVs the current gold mine of the market and more sports car brands confirming entrants in the segment, that part of the Lotus plan may be safe.