Lotus was forced to withdraw the model (along with the Exige) from the US market in 2011 after it no longer complied with US safety regulations and its temporary exemptions expired. Lotus first launched the Elise in 1996 when the company was still owned by former Bugatti chief Romano Artioli. It rolled out the current Series 2 model in 2001, and brought it to America for the first time in 2004.
The larger Evora faced similar issues, and was modified in the form of the new Evora 400 that now meets US regulations. Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales tells Automotive News that doing the same with the Elise would be unfeasible. "We'd need smart airbags, plus side airbags and to change the whole front crash structure. It would add 100kg," or 220 pounds, said Gales.
While modifying the current Elise would be prohibitive, the next version is being designed to meet American standards. That won't happen before 2020. In the meantime, Lotus continues to sell a small number of certain variants of the Elise and Exige for use exclusively on tracks.