Lotus Elise is one of the most loved cars by driving enthusiasts, and since 1996 it is synonymous with pure driving pleasure. The 2021 however it is the terminus for Hethel's sportswoman, ready to be replaced from the new and still unpublished Emira. But are we sure this is the future of Lotus Elise? Il CEO di Lotus, Matt Windle, opened up a possibility: sell the platform and allow other manufacturers to produce new Elises, continuing its story. But who could take over from Lotus? Let's find out what the rumors about the legendary British sports car are about.
After 25 years, Elise says goodbye to the company to make way for the new Lotus
Lotus Elise is one milestone for automobile enthusiasts around the world. If in fact almost all sports cars of every size, engine and dimension offer a combination of usability and driving pleasure, Elise is the purest and most fundamentalist among sportswomen of the last 30 years.
Moreover, just this year, the Elise project turns 25. Born in the period in which Romano Artioli, histrionic entrepreneur already protagonist of the Italian Bugatti adventure, he was the owner of the English company, Elise was a bold and risky car for the House of Hethel. In the mid-90s, Lotus was coming from tough years, after retiring from Formula 1 after disastrous seasons and under-successful products like the controversial front-wheel drive Elan. Lotus was floating on the brink of bankruptcy thanks to the engineering and production of subcontracted cars, such as the crazy Opel Omega Lotus, but it needed a successful model.
And the success returned to Lotus with the Elise. A car that sacrifices comfort, fine finishes, powerful engines and versatility on the altar of lightness, true mantra of every self-respecting Lotus, and focusing on the purest and most crystalline driving pleasure. For 25 years, Elise has sported engines taken from much quieter cars, first Rover and then the current Toyota, with a power ranging from "only" 120 HP of the first Elise of 1996 up to a maximum of 260 HP.
Lacks power steering, automatic climate control, electric seats, even a hardtop as standard, Elise always has bet everything on weight, reduced to just over 900 kg today but only 735 (!!) kg on the first series of 1996, and driving sensations. Telepathic steering, agility, lightning-fast insertion, zero roll, thrills when cornering: Elise is for true enthusiasts, connoisseurs of driving rather than pure performance.
This year, however, is the last year of production for Elise. The CEO di Lotus, Matt Windle, stated that Elise “is still an extraordinary car. We've thought a lot about what to do with Elise. We would like to continue producing it, because we think that his recipe has not aged, but we must necessarily go on. To build our new cars, however, we have now automated our factory in Hethel. Elise, on the other hand, is still made almost entirely by hand. Even if we wanted to, we no longer have space to create an assembly line dedicated to her. "
But what is the true future of Lotus Elise? Windle: "Ready to sell the platform"
The cars Windle talks about are the models of the new Lotus era, which completely replace the entire current range of the House of Hethel. Via Elise, Exige and Evora, all at once, and inside the Hypercar 2000 hp Evija electric and the unedited Type 131, the sports car that replaces in a single model Evora, Elise and Exige of which today we only know the final name: emira. And in the future it could also come there the first “familiar” Lotus: an electric SUV that is still totally new. Thanks to the new owner, the Chinese Geely (already in possession of the Swedish Volvo), which wants to modernize Lotus, making it a modern, new and competitive brand on today's market.
In fact, in this new Lotus there is no more space for Elise, on an ideological level but above all on a logistical level. The Hethel factory has so far been little more than an artisan laboratory: to become a modern and technological builder one must make sacrifices, even if painful. But the Elise project is still very valid, able to give driving emotions unrivaled by any other car on the market also in 2021 and in the coming years.
Despite the construction with the frame in extruded aluminum almost unchanged since 1996, then, the safety of Lotus Elise is still sufficient to allow it to be produced and sold not only in the UK, but throughout Europe. But if in Lotus they no longer have the space and resources to build it… what is the future of Lotus Elise? Interviewed by colleagues from Automotive News Europe, Windle opened to a future “to the Lotus Seven”. That is to say? Sell Elise's platform, machinery and patents to other builders.
Anyone who knows the world of British sports knows that one of the most exciting and extreme sports cars in existence is the Caterham Seven, produced by the small English company since 1973. The project, however, is not by Caterham, but by Lotus. The Seven was in fact born from the genius of Colin Chapman, founder and creator of the Lotus success, back in 1957, and was produced by the English company until 1973. In that year, Lotus decided to modernize, just like today. And as with Elise, in order not to "kill" Seven Lotus decided to sell the projects and machinery to Caterham Cars, the largest Lotus dealer in the United Kingdom. Having become a manufacturer, Caterham has produced and still produces the Caterham Seven, almost unchanged since 1973.
The future of Lotus Elise therefore could be the same as the Seven, the car that Elise has always been inspired by, in terms of offering only the greatest driving pleasure. "Elise is still an incredible car." Windle points out. "If we were to find the right project and partner, or partners, I don't see why not. It has happened before, it wouldn't be the first time. " concludes the managing director of the English company.
But who could build Lotus Elise in the future? Caterham and Radford among the suitors
After these statements by the Lotus CEO, thousands of enthusiasts around the world rejoiced, happy not to have to say goodbye to a true motoring icon. And from euphoria we moved on to impatience and speculation: Will there be a company ready to produce the Elise? And if so, which one? Obviously, Caterham was immediately thought of. They already produce a car by Lotus, and the collaboration with the House of Hethel is strong and lasting: on paper, Caterham is the perfect match. Furthermore, less than a month ago Caterham was bought by the Japanese importer VT Holdings, which deals with the sale in the Rising Sun of Caterham, Royal Enfield and also Lotus.
This capital injection should therefore lead you to think that Caterham is preparing for the next step for the future. The Crawley House also announced the arrival of one in 2023 Seven electric. Are they not also thinking about the revival of the Elise? Asked about the issue, Windle did not disclose any negotiations between Lotus and Caterham for the purchase of the Elise. "I think [Caterham] is trying to decide what their plans and strategies for the future are," he commented. Together with Caterham, however, there is another English House, very young and with great economic capacity, which shows up in the background: Radford.
The brand, very famous coachbuilder, or coachbuilder, of the 50s and 60s, it was revitalized last year by a group of young British entrepreneurs, among which Ant Anstead, co-host of Business on Four Wheels after Edd China between 2016 and 2020 together with Mike Brewer, but above all the 1 Formula 2009 World Champion Jenson Button. Radford is quickly making a name for himself for inspiring and very interesting projects, including one in collaboration with Lotus himself.
Button and his companions have in fact closed an agreement with Lotus for the sale of technology and patents to produce a modern version of the legendary Lotus Type 62, one of the most beautiful Lotus racing cars, although not one of the most successful. Radford has therefore already made deals with Lotus, and given the economic availability and the desire to be known could be one of the contenders to the "race" for the Lotus Elise of the future. To date we have no other known suitors for Elise. This does not mean that there are no outsiders ready to surprise ...
The last months of Lotus Elise: the future is Emira. And soon a journey through its history
This news bodes well for the future of Lotus Elise, but for now it does not change its present. A few weeks ago, Lotus presented the Elise 240 Final Edition, the latest iteration of Hethel's sports car. Equipped with 240 CV, quadro strumenti digital e badge Final Edition, will be the last version of Elise produced by Lotus. The future of the House founded by Colin Chapman now has a new name: emira, the new modern sports car from Hethel, Elise's heir. We don't know much about her, except her name and when we will know her in full, which is at the end of this year.
From today, however, we will also keep an eye on Elise's future, which today looks much brighter than it seemed just a few weeks ago. What do you think? Would you buy a Lotus Elise built by another manufacturer? Let us know in the comments! For those who want to get to know Elise and her history better, the advice is to don't miss the next articles here on technologicfans. In fact, a journey through the history of this historic model, to the delight of all Lotus Fans. Ready?Discount Bugatti & Lotus thriller. Building a dream
- Artioli, Romano (Author)
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