Lotus doubles production and plans a supercar

Norwich, England. The British sports car manufacturer Lotus hopes to more than double production in 2004.

The boost will come from the introduction of the Exige and from exporting the Elise to the U.S.A.

"We plan to sell 4,500 cars in 2004," Marco Feser, Lotus general manager for Europe, told Automobilwoche.

He said U.S. exports, which will start in April, will make up the largest portion of the production increase.

Lotus has already received 2,000 orders from overseas. In 2003 Lotus sold a total of 2,100 cars.

The U.S.-version Elise has a 192hp Toyota engine to enable it to meet U.S. emission regulations. For the first time in Lotus' history there is also an ABS option.

The Elise basic model with a Rover engine will still be built for Europe.

In America the Elise 111R will cost 39.950 dollars and in Europe it is being sold for 41,900 euros.

Lotus' big hope for Europe is the new sports car Exige.

The Exige has its premiere at the Geneva auto show and will cost 44,900 euros in Germany. Its sales start is scheduled for March.

Production of the Esprit finished at the end of February. Around 10,000 Esprits were sold during its 30 years of production.

Lotus also hopes to enter the market segment that includes the Porsche 911 and the Ferrari 360.

The specifications for this third model range are already defined and the first few drivable chassis have been built.

Lotus is currently working on the specifications for the engine. However, it is not sure yet if the sports car, which has the unofficial name "supercar," will have a soft or hard top.

Lotus sales dropped in Germany in 2003 to 120 vehicles but sales in 2004 are expected to rise to between 200 and 250 units.

Lotus is still looking for dealers in Dresden, Berlin, Hamburg and Munich.

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