SCM Editor-In-Chief Jeff Sabatini recently took our 2006 Lotus Elise in for its every-two-years emission testing. We expected it would be routine, as it powered by a modern (by our standards) Toyota engine.

It failed.

But not because of emissions issues.

On the printout we got from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the last six digits of the Lotus VIN came up as zeroes. That is not what shows on the chassis plate nor on the title. The DEQ employee administering the test told us that even though the car “passed” the actual emissions test, the car was failed because of the VIN mismatch.

A bit of searching on the internet turned up a 2013 service bulletin from Lotus called, “Potential loss of electronically stored VIN in ’05 to ’07 MY vehicles.”

To summarize, any U.S.-market 2005–2007 Elise or Exige can have its VIN wiped out. It is recommended that owners should take their cars back to the Lotus dealer for reprogramming of the engine control module.

Of course, there are no longer any Lotus dealers in Oregon.

So I’m asking for your help and advice. Have any of you fellow Lotus owners had the same issue? And if so, how did you address it?

I’ve encountered plenty of problems with old cars over the years, but a car forgetting its own VIN is a new one for me.

I thank you in advance for your suggestions.



  1. Good morning Keith. This sounds like the same problem one runs into if one accidentally runs the battery way down. The ECU has to be taken out and taken to or sent off to someone with the right toy to get the VIN put back. Funny that the car will run, but no VIN. I sent mine off to though I understand that Park Place can also re-Vin them. Hope this helps.

  2. Keith had written: “I’ve encountered plenty of problems with old cars over the years, but a car forgetting its own VIN is a new one for me”.

    I wouldn’t call a vehicle with an electronic VIN and “old car”!

    It sure seems irrational that the DEQ employee ignores the VIN stamped into the body and relies on the electronic copy. Especially since any hacker can probably alter the e-VIN and the result would be a lot harder to detect than re-stamping a physical VIN.

    Good luck with getting this sorted out. It sounds like there are solutions.

  3. Find the closest, most sympathetic Lotus dealer & beg their help!!! Not lol,
    especially since I just sold my 2005 Elise!!

  4. Same: why can’t they just read it off the chassis plate?

  5. move

  6. I’ve heard about this issue before. It should be an easy software VIN re-flash, IF you can find a Lotus dealer. I think there are about 40 of them still remaining in the US.
    Please let your readers know how you resolve this one!

  7. You may not be aware, but most vehicles will have the VIN stamped on metal in various locations around the vehicle. Look inside the door framing, by the windshield, or even around the engine block.