The Lotus Elise is a no-nonsense, somewhat affordable sports car that’s equally at home on the road or race track. Unfortunately, the Elise together with its Exige sibling ceased sales in the United States back in 2011 because of a lack of ‘smart’ airbags. These are designed to monitor the size and position of the occupant of the seat so that an airbag can be deployed safely when necessary.
Engineering the airbags for the Elise and Exige proved too costly for cash-strapped Lotus and thus the tough decision was made to pull the cars from the market. Remember, Lotus was selling close to 2,400 Elises in the U.S. within a year at one point. For the first six months of this year, Lotus managed to move just 74 cars, most of them being Evoras with the rest being track-only versions of the Elise and Exige still available here.
The good news is that Lotus is working on a new generation of its Elise, and this one will be fully compliant with U.S. regulations. The bad news is that the car won’t arrive until at least 2020.
The information was revealed to Automotive News (subscription required) by Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales. He explained that to get the current Elise to comply with U.S. regulations would mean not only fitting the smart airbags but also adding side airbags and a new front crash structure. The changes would add around 220 pounds to the car.
Not much is known about Lotus’ plans for its next-generation Elise. The company is expected to modify the current Elise’s aluminum tub for the new car, and the engine(s) will most likely still come from Toyota. We can also confirm that the car won’t be anything like the next-generation Elise envisaged by previous Lotus CEO Dany Bahar.
Note, before the arrival of the new Elise, Lotus will update the current model. The update should happen around 2017.