After 33 years in production and starring in two Bond films, the Lotus Esprit will be decommissioned this summer...

Lotus Esprit Decommissioned
20th January 2003

The Lotus Esprit featured in two Roger Moore Bond films. Most famously it turned into a submarine in "The Spy Who Loved Me", when 007 plunged the car into the sea to escape Naomi's helicopter. Two Esprit's also featured in "For Your Eyes Only" - the first self destructed outside Gonzales' playboy villa when a henchman tried to break into the car, whereas its winterised replacement carried Bond and his skis to Cortina.

The founder of Lotus, Colin Chapman, convinced Bond producer Cubby Broccoli to use the car by arranging to have the car parked outside his office. Shortly afterwards, the real-life Q-Branch were measuring it up for it's potential as a submarine.

Lotus, which is currently owned by Malaysian car-maker Proton, will stop production of the Esprit in 2003 in order to increase production of the highly successful Lotus Elise.

In the glory days, approximately 800 Esprit's were sold a year, however demand for the car (currently priced at £49,995) has since dropped to between 200 and 250 a year.

Since production of the Esprit began in the factory at Hethel, Norfolk in 1976, over 10,000 cars were made. But after 33 years of production, only 140 more Esprit's will be built in 2003 and are due to be extinct from European show rooms by the summer.

The announcement came at the Los Angeles Auto Show where Arnie Johnson, chief executive of the US arm, said: "Our market analysis studies and surveys show an overwhelmingly confirmed demand for the car."

Lotus made a pre-tax loss of £18m last year, and a loss of £43m the year before. It cut 250 jobs last year and currently employs 1,400 people.