Lotus Elise could live on if buyer steps up to acquire tooling

The Lotus Elise, Exige and Evora are on their way out, to be replaced by the new Emira sports car which debuts in July and starts sales in 2022, including here in the United States.

Lotus has confirmed that the Emira will be its last car fitted with an internal-combustion engine, after which the company will be an electric-vehicle brand, meaning the Lotus of tomorrow will be very different to the Lotus of the past and present day.

There’s a chance however that the Elise could be given a reprieve, though not at Lotus.

In an interview with Automotive News (subscription required) published last week, Lotus CEO Matt Windle said the company is willing to sell the tooling to the Elise, similar to how it sold the tooling to the iconic Seven chassis to Caterham in 1973.

Caterham Super Seven 1600

Caterham Super Seven 1600

Caterham is still churning out the Seven, and it’s possible the same could end up being the case for the Elise. Caterham was just sold in April to VT Holdings, the company responsible for the sale of Caterham cars in Japan, though the new owner is yet to announce any future plans.

There’s also a revival of British coachbuilder Harold Radford underway, with the new effort backed by 2009 Formula One world champion Jenson Button. The revived Radford is developing a Lotus-inspired sports car that is expected to use a donor Lotus chassis, though only 62 examples of the new Radford are planned.

Even though the Elise’s design is now 25 years old—the car debuted in 1996 and has only received minor updates since then—it’s still regarded as one of the best sports cars thanks to its combination of low weight and agile handling.

Unfortunately, the U.S. has missed out on the Elise since 2011, after it fell foul of local airbag rules. The cost of recertifying the car to meet U.S. standards was deemed too high as Lotus at the time was selling less than 3,000 cars per yer worldwide. The same also applies to the related Exige.

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