It wasn't all that long ago that Lotus, England's favorite four-wheeled flower, almost dried up and withered away from U.S. shores completely. A badly aging product lineup, dodgy reliability and increasingly stringent U.S. regulations nearly killed the minimalist marque's fortunes in the world's largest automobile marketplace. As recently as 2003, Lotus Group Plc didn't even crack 100 units Stateside, but with long-awaited federalization and subsequent importation of the Elise beginning in 2004, the company has rebounded dramatically.

The Elise, one of the finest-handling cars on offer anywhere (at any price), has drawn new buyers into Lotus' fold with a surprisingly accessible $43,000 M.S.R.P. Sales have been particularly robust in warmer climes like Atlanta, where road conditions and sunshine are more conducive to wind-in-the-hair motoring.

In the spring, the Elise will get a dealer-mate in the Exige, which stickers at $50,990.

It is fair to say that Lotus' rebirth in America has put other boutique automakers on notice-- Ariel has recently opened up their U.S. order books, and TVR has an enthusiastic and wealthy young owner who could well make America a priority before the decade is out. Here's hoping.

[Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle via MSNBC]



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