Lotus sold the Esprit in the USA market for several years by means of government waivers that allowed it to bypass some of the stringent federal regulations implemented in recent years. Every year, these regulations get tougher and waivers are harder to get approved. Additionally, Renault gearbox production had all but dried up. Rumor has it that Renault offered to sell the gearbox manufacturing plant to Lotus. They declined; most likely for financial reasons but also because the Renault gearbox is already a relic that cannot handle the power that the Esprit's V8 engine is capable of. In fact, the V8 output had to be detuned from a potential 500HP to only 350HP to prevent gearbox damage.
Due to these factors, Lotus decided to cease production of the Esprit after more than 27 years. Production ended in December 2003 for USA market cars while other markets finished earlier in the year. Now that the current Esprit build run is complete, Lotus Cars USA will be relying on the sale of the Federal Elise and Exige to keep them in business in the USA market. The Elise started being delivered in July 2004 as a 2005MY for approximately $39,000US and features a Lotus-modified, 190HP version of the Toyota Celica GTS 4-cylinder engine.
The last production of 33 Federal Esprits was known as the "Esprit Final Run Edition". In all states except California, this car was be labeled as a 2004MY. In California, the car was sold as a 2003½MY car. This was done to avoid some of the more stringent environmental regulations which went into effect for that state for 2004 and newer cars. These regulations would have involved further development of the ECM software code at a great expense to Lotus. Since this was the last year of production, it was decided it would be more sensible to simply refer to those cars as 2003½ cars instead.
The 2004MY Esprit Final Run Edition had a few modifications to distinguish it from previous models.
An "undocumented" feature of the Final Run Esprit is that it was the only USA model other than the the Sport 350 that came standard with a High Torque ECM program. This program is supposed to only affect torque by allowing boost in lower gears. However, owners that have dynoed their cars have discovered the added surprise of substantially highr horsepower. Some have seen results of over 350HP at the rear wheels.
The base MSRP for the 2004MY was 94,125.00US.