Lotus Elise could be revived as a Caterham
But Lotus could be in two minds about it
Conceived in 1996, the Lotus Elise was never the fastest car nor the most comfortable or supremely built. Still, it always remained in the good books of drivers as it was capable of making them grin ear to ear. But now, Lotus has axed this model, courtesy of electrification and a new product line-up, which entails the 25-year production run comes to an end. But maybe, not entirely.
According to an Automotive NewsEurope report, Matt Windle, Lotus’ managing director, claims the firm is open to the idea of selling the car’s tooling. “If the right project and the right partner came along, I do not see why not. It’s a wonderful car,” said Windle.
Two firms appear to be in contention for Elise’s underpinnings. The first and more obvious option is Caterham. Reasons for that being, Caterham was Windle’s former employer. The man worked in the capacity of chief body engineer for two years from 2012. He then shifted to Zenos, another niche-carmaker, while ultimately ending up at Lotus in 2017.
Apart from management links, Lotus and Caterham even share an owner link. For the unaware, Caterham was bought by a Japanese importer and distributor, VT Holdings, in April earlier this year. Now, co-incidentally, VT Holdings sells as well as imports Lotus cars to Japan.
Additionally, this won’t be the first time Lotus shared the tooling for one of its cars to Caterham. Back in the early 70s, Lotus sold the tooling of its first sports car, the Seven, to then British-owned Caterham. And Caterham builds the same vehicle, but in varied and more advanced iterations, to this date. With such a healthy track record, why wouldn’t the two carmakers want to further their relationship!
The other possible buyer could be Radford, a recently revived coachbuilder famed for modifying Minis in the 60s. Co-founded by former Formula1 world champion Jenson Button, the firm recently struck a deal with Lotus to help the former launch retro-inspired sports cars.
Even though the Elise has been around 25 years, a fairly long runtime for a model, the management had to hold discussions before pulling the plug on it. Furthermore, Windle gave space as another possible reason for the axing. “The truth is that the whole of the manufacturing facility at Hethel [Lotus’s factory in England] is being transformed into an automated process. We just did not have the room to produce the Elise”, said Windle.
The death of the Elise nameplate gets accompanied by its hard-top sibling, the Exige. Both these models are said to get replaced by a new Lotus named the Emira. Rumours have it that the Emira could also be the successor to the Evora as the latter is set to go out of production too. However, the Emira won’t be an all-electric vehicle as that title will stay reserved with the Evija hypercar at present. Though, a hybrid setup with a turbocharged V6 could be on the cards. Whatever it may be, Lotus has to inject some serious oomph to make it stand out from the usual favourites like Porsches and McLarens.