• Evolution of the Automotive Industry is Killing Icons, And the Lotus Elise Was No Exception

As time goes on, long-running icons will be put to rest to make way for a whole lot of new

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As we transitioned into 2021, we learned that Lotus was bringing us a new sports car, but it would come at the cost of the Elise, Exige, and Evora. For some, the death of cars like the Elise isn’t that big a deal. After all, we haven’t had it in the United States for a decade now, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s been an icon for the brand since the Elise Series 1 was introduced way back in 1996. Killing off the Elise is similar to Nissan killing of the Z car or the GT-R, so why is Lotus making such a move? Well, the answer is simpler than you might think.

Icons – What Decides If They Stay Or Go?

Evolution of the Automotive Industry is Killing Icons, And the Lotus Elise Was No Exception Exterior
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As the automotive industry continues to evolve, ushering in more and more electrification and the death of the internal combustion engine, automakers have been making some tough decisions. As early as 2019, Nissan had to start weighing options for its iconic cars, the Z and GT-R. There was a good chance that both models would go electric or hybrid and, at one point, there was even fear that Nissan would kill them off altogether. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and a new Z-car is even upon us. The same can’t be said for what’s happening over at Lotus, though.

Evolution of the Automotive Industry is Killing Icons, And the Lotus Elise Was No Exception Exterior
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As lotus plots its course to the future, the Elise, Exige, and Evora just weren’t part of the plan. The company even released the Exige and Elise Final Editions for the 2021 model year, bidding farewell to a long, illustrious past. Meanwhile, the Evija is well underway, although the company realizes that some compromise needs to be made, which is probably why that car will have a digital V-8 soundtrack. By the time April arrived, we learned about the Lotus Emira, which will the the very last gasoline-powered Lotus to ever leave the production line. That being the case, couldn’t Lotus keep the Elise on for a few more years – at least until it transitions to an EV-only company?

Evolution of the Automotive Industry is Killing Icons, And the Lotus Elise Was No Exception Exterior
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Well, no, because the cons of keeping the Elise in production outweighed the pros. It wasn’t an easy decision, and there was consideration to keep the Elise name around, at least for now. According to Lotus’ Managing Director, Matt Windle, Told Road & Track that the Elise just doesn’t make the cut, icon status or not:

"Yes. It's not easy to say goodbye to that car. It's an icon. I bought one, as well, actually. I've been mulling it over for ages and I decided to finally put my money where my mouth is. I recognize it's an icon and I definitely want to have one in my garage. However, we needed to make a massive transformation and a massive step forward in what we were doing, quality, manufacturing processes."
Evolution of the Automotive Industry is Killing Icons, And the Lotus Elise Was No Exception Exterior Wallpaper quality
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It’s not that Lotus couldn’t make the Elise better, but with the Elise’s paint shop being decommissioned at the end of this year, a lot of concessions would have to be made. Too much work would be required to keep the Elise in production as the company transitions to a new method of production.

2021 Lotus Elise Cup 250 Final Edition specifications
Engine 1.8-liter four-cylinder
Horsepower 243 HP
Torque 184 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 3.9 seconds
Top Speed 154 mph

The Elise Was Painted By Hand, But Future Cars Won’t Be

Evolution of the Automotive Industry is Killing Icons, And the Lotus Elise Was No Exception Exterior Wallpaper quality
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As of now, any Elise that was produced was pushed by hand into the paint facility and painted the old-fashioned way. A new paint production facility will be almost entirely automated, and that’s where the problem lies.

"We wouldn't be able to put Elise through that paint shop because of the panel quality and the GRP and stuff like that”

Painting the Elise somewhere else? Well that’s where it becomes way too much work. “You just get to the point where you add up the positives and negatives. We’re making a clean break,” said Windle. And, Lotus isn’t just transitioning to an automated paint line to make things easier. The first reason is that the company can increase the volume of vehicles it produces, but the second reason is that it will help increase the quality of vehicles that roll of the line.

Evolution of the Automotive Industry is Killing Icons, And the Lotus Elise Was No Exception Exterior
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So, while the Lotus brand is expected to grow as it transitions to an electric automaker, it has no choice but to cut ties with its old ways. The Elise might not be that big a deal to some, but eventually, other big iconic names will have to follow suit – the Elise is just one of the first.

Robert Moore
Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert - robert@topspeed.com
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read full bio
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