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Why does Lotus suffer from reliability jibes

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  • Gold FFM

There seems to be a common thread here that is "if you service and maintain it, it will run" (apologies to Kevin Costner here!). That's reassuring to know as I have always serviced my cars (not me personally, I'm useless with a spanner) over 30 years of driving and have suffered minimal disruption as a result. Even our family runabout - it's a 12 mile round trip just for a pint of milk where I live - (me, wife, daughter 12 and son 17 just learning) that gets used and abused, an old rusty Ford Ka, get's serviced once a year by Kwik Fit of all people. Never misses a beat, never fails to start, etc etc.


I have a couple of neighbours, their cars are always breaking down - whether it be suspension, turbo's, steering, general engine issues etc. But then, their idea of maintenance is to show it the oil can once a year, or get a "mate" who tinkers to give it a service on a "barter" type system.  I've tried to tell them it's a false economy, but they won't listen, carry on the same and then bitch and moan month and month out that their cars give them problems and then they get the £1k, 2k and even £3k bill to fix :(


My Lotus Evora will get serviced, as per the book. I expect the dealer to go the extra mile and check around the car in general. In fact when I pciked it up from its service and MOT at Murray's yesterday I had a good chat with the mechanic and asked him all sorts of questions re the condition of the car and to be honest, I got the impression they had given it a good look over. I'm hoping that this simple approach, whilst not the cheapest, will prove best in the long run as I enjoy many many miles in my little red car over the next few years. I just need to keep away from Brandon when it's in for a service as might get talked into a new 400 otherwise!


So, in answer to my question in the OP - the jibes seem to be a result of largely historical issues, some ignorance, and quite a bit of "lazy journalism".


I'll take your point Mr50bmg re the comments about other makes on the chin - but then, I will add that people (owners of Porsche and Audi) when sitting in their glass throne rooms should also not be throwing stones at Lotus. My comments were as a direct result of "jibes" and childish epithets from owners of these marques when they found out I had bought a Lotus.


Welcome back to the forum Mr50bmg and I hope I can emulate your 24 years of Lotus ownership - though due to being a later starter I will be 72  by then!  Glad to hear you're still enjoying the car.

Alcohol. Sex. Tobacco. Drugs. Chocolate.  Meh! NOTHING in this world is as addictive as an Evora +0. It's not for babies!    

The first guy to ride a bull for fun, was a true hero. The second man to follow him was truly nuts!   

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My car was built in 1991 and I have owned it for more than 21 years. It has let me down once in that time when the SU fuel pump (as used in lots of other contemporaries like Jaguars) failed. The galvanised chassis is still good and the (Lotus) engine is fine.

Talking of recalls, the wonderful, all powerful Ferrari 458 had to be recalled because they caught fire!

So basically what we are saying is that anything remotely interesting will probably brake!

To add balance to this argument in my experience of running an Evora everyday for two years, 20k miles and 4 track days was a few niggles and 1 flat bed back to the dealer with an apparent problem with the central locking which was resolved by a reset.

Whilst in warranty Lotus would fix the minor niggly problems. Outside warranty I was on my own.

I think my car had more problems than you'd expect from an 18 month old (£60k when new) car compared to a German car but agree that the old image is out of date.. That image is reserved for a 1980s TVR isn't it?!!

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I think their are several problems with the usage Lotus get, the maintenance and then the perception of reliability.

Many people buy a Lotus as a weekend car and sometimes they only come out a few times a year. My experience of any car is that it likes to be used regularly or bits will stiffen, seize up and break.

The car then gets dragged out and cobwebs dusted off and then used "enthusiastically"..... guess what happens?

Due to the lack of use, people then do a lack of service. :-/

The other problem is that due to the nature of the cars - many problems can simply be ignored as they do not affect the driving experience of the car. When finally a problem that does affect this experience shows up... the car is sold on.

The new owner inherits a list of issues that were not sorted by the previous owner due to the ability to ignore them.

New owner gets frustrated and bad mouths the experience.

Oh and jump starting my bosses new audi from my 30 year old "plastic fantastic" after giving me a load of shite about Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious - is a very sweet moment.

He couldnt even justify the comment as I have never broken down in a Lotus!

Edited by Fueltheburn
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The reliability reputation arrived when Lotus were offered as kits and build quality was variable at best.  Add in Chapman's lightness ethos and driveshafts doubling as lower links, inadequate doughnuts, leaky vacuums instead of lift motors, etc and the result is a car aimed at enthusiasts who appreciate it for what it can do rather than its weaknesses. 


Roll on to the Esprit 3 and later....and really most of the cars have been inherently reliable.  But there remain two main issues.  Firstly they offer near supercar looks/performance for hot hatch money in terms of capital outlay.  But they still have supercar maintenance costs, which tends to result in it not being done.  Nothing mechanical will survive long term on no or little maintenance.  The other thing that I think we as Lotus owners tend to turn an indulgent blind eye to is that they aren't really very well put together.  Both of mine are riddled with self tappers and hopeless captive fasteners.  As a result, bits fall off.  It doesn't affect reliability as such, but it does seem naff and is easy to make fun of.


Even the later cars - for all their mechanical reliability - aren't as well put together as mainstream runabouts.  A look around Bib's post Bahar Evora S vs his early LE and it showed a world of improvement - leaking boot? stitiching? etc...


Skoda shook off their skip reputation by hooking up with super reliable reputation VW (DSG anyone?)

Alfa didn't by hooking up with Fiat whose reputation was no better than their own. 


Its interesting to me that Land Rover have consistently for more years than I can remember propped up the base of the JD Power and Which? reliability surveys and their sales have never been better.  I've had two and agree with that record - my first Rangey had the poorest reliability of any car I've owned (which number more than 20 incl 4 Lotus).  LR's reputation remains strong on what they can do, not sullied by what they're poor at.


Based on that, I'd say Lotus must continue (restart?) to market hard on where they have the edge ride/handling/steering/performance and value vs their competition and leave the reliability thing to take care of itself over time.

Loving Lionel and Eleanor......missing Charlie and Sonny

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. That image is reserved for a 1980s TVR isn't it?!!




I have a 80s TVR, used just about every day since I bought it in 89. Now on 400,000 km.

Yes it has broken down ONCE when the Bosch electronic ignition module failed in 96.

Pity they used a German part....


I have now sent it for a well deserved mechanical restoration as I intend to keep it forever.


Otherwise, once you own something British that 'normal British folk' consider as exotic then you will suffer put downs. British seem to hate local success in a way that doesn't exist in other countries. Seems to be a national trait?

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My Lotus Evora will get serviced, as per the book. I expect the dealer to go the extra mile and check around the car in general.


Don't get me wrong, but nowadays, it's also very much depending on the charter you're giving!

With dealers advertising stupid low rates on services they will do exactly what is in the service description but won't do anything else.

When you ask a dealer or specialist to service it AND have a look around to see if anything is wearing to it's end or going wrong etc. they will take more time and find potential issues.


The ultra low service rates are well received by customers, but you have to keep in mind what you're asking them to do for you!


Giving the car some proper attention is a different charter :)

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Colin knew how he wanted the cars and that was the way they WOULD be built. No matter what his guys thought. Because of this many of the early factory built cars were less reliable because they were being built to his specification. For example, why use several different fixings when you can save 2kg by fixing several different things to the same point? Despite the normal route being more secure and reliable. It wasn't that he was bad Engineer as he was a genius, but reliability was not a concern for him as much as the performance, ride and handling.


This was some of the issues with cars like the early Elite. When MJK was made MD in 1978, being an Engineer he wanted things doing right and knew he had to increase reliability to get rid of the "Lots of Trouble usually serious" monicker, and by that time Colin was much more interested in his F1 team so dad did more and more of the design approval and you will see a marked difference in reliability from 2 similar cars like the Elite and the Excel. It also helped when he got Toyota on board and started using some of their running gear/switches/fittings as a lot of the things they were using in the early 70's were from obsolete models even then.


In terms of why some bits are weird (and I know dad has often been asked "Why did you do it like this") regarding mechanical bits and which parts they used. His answer has always been "Because it was better that way! If it had this on it, which was non standard and had to be made specially, it was because it fitted that car better, made it handle how we wanted it to or increased the aerodynamics to where we wanted it".


A couple of classic examples were 215 tyres on the Excel (when 205 or 225 were standard tyres) or the flat windscreen on the Esprit. I asked him about the tyres on my Excel and he said " it's simple, we got the ride and handling to where we wanted it and maintained the lower profile look that we also wanted. We didn't care that it was a non standard size, its what the car needed".

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I recall Ferrari having the reputation for producing rust buckets (Dino in particular) and temperamental

temptresses requiring crazily expensive servicing at very short intervals with the requirement for the cars to be driven very little in order to retain residual value. Presumably because Ferrari had and have

maintained the glamour associated with successful Grand Prix racing along side the aspirational and always

expensive, very well styled road cars, they have managed to continue to develop the "brand value" which has over-ridden the issues of fragility and temperamentality.

Turning to Porsche, during this years Le Mans, a disproportionately high number (may be all - I forget) of

the Porsche GT3 cars failed during the race compared with the usual failure rate but, I bet they were well

screwed together when first delivered by Porsche even if the engines proved less reliable than usual during

the race.

I am still thrilled with the feel and capability of my Elise S, purchased new this year in preference to my Cayman S bought new in 2014, but I have had some niggles which really should not be present on a new car.

From the outset the wheels were out of balance and I have now been back to the dealer three times with this issue. On my last visit the dealer rotated the tyres on the rims and then rebalanced the wheels which seems to have done the trick.

There were several clunks and rattles present from the beginning - something unheard of on the Saabs, Audis,BMWs, Porsche and various Land Rover produced vehicles that I have owned, all from new. Again the dealer has dealt with these willingly and quickly but it turns out that one of the 'clunks' is the result of a duff

Bilstein damper (replacement on order) - clearly not a Lotus manufacturing problem but perhaps part of a

quality control problem which the other clonks and rattles demonstrate.

This is such a huge shame as quality control is such a major factor in developing and maintaining brand

value and reputation and in the grand scheme of things is probably not a huge cost, particularly if the

value of sales won/not lost because of good quality are taken into account. It also diminishes my ability

to rebuff the comments that some people throw at Lotus as illustrated by others earlier in this thread.

Pound for pound, based on performance, handling ability and thrill/feel factors, I doubt that there is a

car out there that is better value than an Elise S. I have just returned from doing the Level 2 course at

Hethel which was excellent both in what it taught and how this was done. But, not only that, it demonstrated what a brilliant vehicle the Elise S is - phenomenal cornering and stopping ability combined with pretty

good acceleration - truly enormous fun - well worth the effort and money to learn just how capable these

cars are. I had not realised that the Level 3 course followed on the next day which is a real shame but I am sure it would be an awesome course to undertake and would enable participants to experience the Exige V6

and Evora in a similar way to that provided on the Level 2 course with the Elise S.

With this in mind, I sincerely hope that in addition to producing superbly handling and exciting cars, the

"new" Lotus management will devote further effort and money to quality control otherwise they are unlikely

to ever reap the full rewards for producing fundamentally great cars.

Yes - the journalists need to judge on what they see and feel rather than regurgitating tales from the past

BUT, they need to be given the proof that things really have changed and that the regime now running the

show are determined not only to produce brilliant cars but to do so at the level of quality and consistency

'demanded' by the market these days.

Elise S sold February 2018.  GT410 Sport on order

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  • Gold FFM

I don't care about the jibes I get.

It's fast and fun. That's it - simple like the cars design.

The old saying sure helps keep the cars in an affordable bracket. I don't buy the high servicing costs - if your happy with a spanner it's simply not the case.

You don't maintain it, like any car, you are going to have a breakdown.......

Had a client with a Maserati - offered it me for throw away money - because every time he took it shopping to waitrose - he was brought back on a low loader

Only here once

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I have had a Lotus Esprit S3 for 24 years with 75k miles and it has only let me down on the road twice. The SU pump stopped and the nice RAC man hit it with a hammer and it got me home.  The second time the battery went and again a quick squirt of juice go me started and home. 


Not so bad?


My Lotus Elan +2 130/5 was not so good but once problems neglected by the previous owner were fixed, it was pure pleasure to drive.

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The reputation largely stems from the days of Severns, Elans and Europas, when very many were assembled from factory supplied kits by people with varying levels of competence. It's true some of the Excels and Eclats etc where possibly one step beyond the capabilities of Lotus at the time, indeed very few seem to have stood the test of time, sadly, as they were very much ahead Of the rest in their day. But, since the advent of the Elise, I'd have to say they have generally been very reliable cars, given the fact that they are hand built and not mass produced, robot assembled as virtually everything else is . Take a look at any other sports car of a similar price with 15 years use, they generally don't hold up as well as an Elise, and don't hold their price as well. ( think MX or TF, or Alfa Spyder or MR2). Fortunately the modern Lotus is underpinned by the very reliable Toyota mechanicals. Ok, maybe Toyota are not that exciting, but they are as reliable as any other mainstream car. So, for me the old reputation has no place today and isn't even worth a mention.

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The second time the battery went and again a quick squirt of juice go me started and home.

And I don't think a battery can be counted really as they are not purpose built for the car. Any battery can call it quits. My wifes 3 year old CRV called it quits in the shopping centre when it's battery dropped a cell.

All we know is that when they stop making this, we will be properly, properly sad.Jeremy Clarkson on the Esprit.

Opinions are like armpits. Everyone has them, some just stink more than others.

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  • Gold FFM

I'm wondering just how much of the perception is down to Lotus being British?  The malaise of 1970s British Leyland still casts a long shadow over the British car industry.  Indeed, for a generation or so, buying British would bring raised eyebrows regardless of the marque.  Jaguar Land Rover, arguably one of Britain's success story is only just leaving it's legacy of this period behind.


With no offence intended, the "romance" of other nation's manufacturing hubs would always be somehow more alluring than Longbridge or Norfolk.  In part the exotic locales, and mystery that surround them, seem to make flaws forgivable.


Add in to the mix a huge slice of national self deprecation, and almost apologising for buying against the popular trend (a uniquely British trait?) and you can easily see that this isn't just a Lotus problem.

It's constantly fascinating to me, that the cars reliability is always part of the conversation I have with people asking about the car.  What is perhaps more telling is that if I'm talking to another petrol-head, it comes further in to the conversation...

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When considering this topic, you must understand the difference between BEST and APPROPRIATE.

In 2009 I managed to ride an old royal enfield bike over the himalayas. Def not rare, there are still thousands of them.

And definitely not the best! But definitely the most appropriate for the task. Cant fix electronics without test equipment or parts. The Enfield can be fixed with two rocks and a stick almost anywhere.

If you apply this to cars of a sporting nature, then the best solution is often NOT the most appropriate solution.

Lotii were made to perform. It is expected that this requires more owner intervention than cars of an agricultural nature.

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Can't think what you mean re this statement DaveC72:


"With no offence intended, the "romance" of other nation's manufacturing hubs would always be somehow more alluring than Longbridge or Norfolk.  In part the exotic locales, and mystery that surround them, seem to make flaws forgivable."


My view, I am sure like that of most people in the UK, is that Norfolk is a mystical and exotic place in the far east. A long journey to get there which means like other exotic places it is somewhere the vast majority of us have never been. The fact that they just happen to make some of the best sports cars on the planet there means that I must convince the wife to make the long and hazardous (well, you do have to go through Suffolk) journey there for a holiday  :) 

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Alcohol. Sex. Tobacco. Drugs. Chocolate.  Meh! NOTHING in this world is as addictive as an Evora +0. It's not for babies!    

The first guy to ride a bull for fun, was a true hero. The second man to follow him was truly nuts!   

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I guess when young people start learning about cars, they learn that Lotus's are unreliable, without any previous experience of their own.  Just like they learn that Porsche's are reliable and Alfa Romeo's are trouble and Jags have the whiff of slippers and Saga holidays.  I continually get people coming up to me asking about the mpg of my Mustang, that's what you say to people with American cars.  30 years ago you didn't hear about all the old tales, all you had were magazines and Top Gear (which was often biased towards British cars).  Now we have more TV programs, the internet and car forums repeating the same tired old stories.

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I'm wondering just how much of the perception is down to Lotus being British? .


^^^This^^, all over the place. The British are masters at self deprecation, whereas other countries build up the romance of their own stock.


Look how many dozens of American are are named after US places; Chevy Malibu, Tahoe, Captiva etc etc. If Rover had called their next model the Cleethorpes people would have been rolling around in the streets. That's why Ford called their range after foreign (and thus exotic) places in the 60s, Capri, Granada, Cortina etc.


I'm always amazed when what should be functional Italian words like Quattrovalvole are rolled around the tongue of Fezza enthusiasts with the gusto of a sex chatline.


It's the same when we go abroad, if we find ourselves in some squalid poorly equipped French bed and breakfast we call it "character", experience the same over here and people would be rushing to find the number of the local Public Health dept.


We haven't got a car industry and we don't deserve one.

In the garage no-one can hear you scream 

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Hmmm, the Triumph Spitfire named after our triumphant plane that won the battle of britain and helped liberate Europe :)


Then we have the Austin Allegro - named after the music as it was just as quick - haha


And the Ford Escort - named after Deborah who provided a discrete service for some time in the Dagenham area


Then we have the Rover 70 (named after the fact that Rover usually went for 70 days between strikes) ...


Self depracation - what a load of old tosh. You can keep your Italian Maserati Vasolene's and Ferrari four-pot-holes, give me a regal and wafty Jaguar Sovereign any day of the week.

Alcohol. Sex. Tobacco. Drugs. Chocolate.  Meh! NOTHING in this world is as addictive as an Evora +0. It's not for babies!    

The first guy to ride a bull for fun, was a true hero. The second man to follow him was truly nuts!   

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