On December 22, 2021, Lotus trumpeted the swan song of the Elise, Exige and Evora sports cars in a bittersweet sendoff press release. The Elise, Exige, and Esprit were relegated to the brand’s heritage collection, and assembly lines dismantled to ramp up production of the new Emira, Hethel’s last internal combustion car. And yet, this week Lotus announced its sales numbers for 2021, and they’re impressive. Lest this report elicits a scoff and a frown of skepticism as a quirk of 2021, it's worth noting that this isn't just a year-over-year comparison. It has been the brand's best year in a decade.
Maybe it’s the get-it-while-you-can mentality, perhaps it’s the momentum Lotus is building for upcoming models, or potentially it’s a strange blip in time. All I know is that Lotus says that 2021 was its best annual sales report in ten years with an increase of 24 percent globally. In North America alone, Canadian and U.S. retail numbers were up a whopping 111 percent year-on-year, which was also the brand’s best performance in the region.
That said, Lotus is a small-batch automaker, building 1,710 new cars last year, which is 332 more models than 2020. Fans snapped up its Elise Sport 240 Final Edition and Cup 250 Final Edition variants (both with supercharged inline-four powerplants) as top sellers, with the other models bringing up the rear.
The Evora GT, billed as the more “practical” example in the lineup, launched in 2019 as a 2020 model just for North America. Its supercharged 3.5-liter V6 with Toyota Camry origins and manual transmission scrabbled out its own niche, surpassing its own sales numbers of the entirety of 2020 between January and June of 2021 alone.
Lotus made a giant impression on me in 1990 when Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman character Vivian Ward proclaimed “it corners on rails” as she whipped it around the glittery (and less-savory) streets of Hollywood. It’s said that other supercar makers shied away from the movie due to the–ahem–professional nature of the main character, but Lotus had the last laugh, reportedly tripling sales after that.
As Vivian might say, “Big mistake, Porsche and Ferrari. Big.” Stay tuned for an update a year from now and we'll see where Lotus is headed next.
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