Lotus After World War II
Since 1966, Lotus cars were manufactured in a factory and road test facility at Hethel, Norfolk, England, at the site of RAF Hethel, which was an old airfield from World War II. The road test contained portions of the old runways used during the war. Lotus is known for its sports and performance cars, and is one of the few British manufacturers still in production today.
Lotus in America
The market for Lotus in America was very small until the mid-1980s. Lotus underwent severe financial difficulties in the early 1980s due to the lack of sales in the market. To boost sales, Lotus Performance Cars Inc. was created in America. With the creation of this company, Turbo Esprits were imported into the U.S. for the first time, which tripled sales and provided much needed income for Lotus.
Chapman owned the company until his death in 1982, and in 1986, it was bought by General Motors. The four letters found in the Lotus logo (ACBC) stand for the initials of Chapman's full name. In 1993, General Motors sold Lotus to a company in Luxembourg, which was controlled by the owner of Bugatti, Romano Artioli. The company sold a majority share to Proton, a Malaysian car company, in 1996 after Artioli went bankrupt in 1994. Lotus Engineering also acts as a consultancy to other car developers as well as designing and building its own vehicles.
While Chapman was still a student, he began building cars to run in English racing. The first roadworthy full car produced by Lotus was the Lotus Seven. It was a two-seater, open top sports car that was in production from 1957 to 1970. Today, it is currently available as both a kit car and a fully-assembled car from Caterham Cars, the company that bought the rights to the vehicle in 1973.
The first Lotus Elite rolled off the production line in 1958. This two-seater coupe was produced until 1963. In 1974, a four-seater Elite was launched by Lotus and was available until 1982. There have been no Elites in production since 1982, but in 2010, Lotus unveiled a new generation concept car reported to go into production in 2014.
The Lotus Elan encompassed two convertible cars and one coupe that were available from 1962 to 1975 and again from 1989 to 1995. Initially produced as a replacement for the Elite, it was expensive to produce and unreliable on the road. The purchase of Lotus in 1986 provided the revenue required to design, develop and launch the new Elan in 1989. At the Paris Motor Show in 2010, the new Lotus Elan was announced with a production start date of 2013.
In 1976, the Lotus Esprit launched and continued to be produced until 2004. While the first generation of the car was said to have excellent handling, it did poorly due to a lack of power. This was particularly true in the U.S. where the engine was modified to reduce emissions. The Esprit went through several modifications, including the release of the Turbo version. To improve performance in markets like the U.S., Lotus produced an Esprit with a different engine than in the U.K. market.
Lotus Products and Technologies
There are six current models of Lotus cars available, one of which is a track-only car. The Lotus T125 Exos cost $1 million to produce, and only 25 are scheduled for production. A limited number of owners can take part in the Exos Experience by Lotus, where they benefit from one-on-one advice with Grand Prix drivers and trainers as they drive the Exos on a track.
The other five models include the Elise, Exige, Exige S, Evora and 2-Eleven. The Elise is a two-seater, rear-wheel drive roadster that has been in production since 1996. In America, it contains a Toyota engine to meet emissions restrictions. The Exige is an Elise with a body redesigned to increase down force. It launched in 2006 in the U.S., and the supercharged Exige S launched in 2007. The Lotus 2-Eleven was intended as a track car, but it can be modified to be road legal for an additional cost.
The Evora is the first completely new vehicle since the Elise in 1996. The first was launched in 2008, with two subsequent vehicles being available in 2011. The goal behind the Evora is to produce a road worthy performance car that will appeal to the mainstream market. As such, it is a much larger car than the Elise and the Exige.