Currently reading: Lotus Esprit still on for 2012
V8 supercar joins new Elise in Hethel's plan for the next three years

Lotus is forging ahead with a new Elise and new Esprit, with predicted production dates of 2011 and 2012.

The Elise is most likely to be a development of today’s car, rather than a variant of the new Evora, which has a very different alloy chassis, and is heavier. Insiders say the Elise may be seen late in 2010, but sales won’t start until 2011.

Production of the Esprit is dependent on sufficient funds being generated by the Evora and, possibly, cash from an outside investor.

Despite that, engineers are still working towards a 2012 launch date. The Esprit will be a longer, wider version of the new Evora with a mid-mounted V8.

Read the Autocar verdict on the new Evora coupe

The Evora Convertible is also planned for 2012; it will be a two-seater and may be marketed as a different model.

Lotus’s engineering and production systems are understood to be flexible enough to allow a late decision on the order in which the Esprit or the Evora Convertible come to market.

If the recession recedes and demand for supercars picks up, expect Lotus to launch the Esprit ahead of the Evora convertible. But if the market is still depressed, expect the cheaper Evora soft-top to launch first.

The credit crunch is also likely to deal a blow to Lotus’s plans to double production to 8000 units per year by 2011, the target outlined in 2006 when Mike Kimberley took control.

Insiders are now predicting 4000 to 5000 Lotus-badged cars per year by 2011/12, while many of the firm's contract manufacturing jobs are put on hold by the recession.

Cooperation with Abarth on a sports car (an Evora rather than an Elise variant) has stalled. And the Europa-based Dodge Circuit electric car has been killed by the credit crunch.

However, there are understood to be other discussions with European OEMs. Lotus is also hoping for another electric car programme like the Tesla, which is built at Hethel.

Julian Rendell

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