It was Sergio Marchionne who announced the future plans for all of the brands in late January. Fiat brand will be concentrated in two families, Alfa Romeo will become the entry premium brand of the group, Maserati will continue to grow in the top premium segment; Jeep will become more global, while Chrysler and Dodge will enlarge their range of products always focused on North American markets. But he said something else: Lancia, the mythical Italian car brand, will focus on the Ypsilon family and will be only available in Italy. This means that the brand will slowly disappear from European markets and there won’t be new models anymore. In other words, Lancia would die by the year 2017 when the current Ypsilon would be 6 years old and it wouldn’t be profitable to launch a new generation for only one market. But why Marchionne decided this? what’s the problem about Lancia?
2 years ago Fiat decided to give Lancia a second opportunity. They made use of some Chrysler models to expand Lancia’s range, after the disaster of the Lybra (D-Segment), Thesis (E-Segment), and Phedra (D-MPV). By that time, Geneva 2012, Fiat described the rebadge operation as the ‘new Lancia’. Besides the new Ypsilon and the beautiful Delta, Lancia counted on the new Thema, Voyager and Flavia to offer more products to more clients. But the presentation of these cars was as irrelevant as their sales figures. Despite the fact that they were not expensive at all (considering their engines and equipment), they were too American for European taste. Nevertheless, Lancia wasn’t expecting a lot from them (around 10.000 units by year in the whole continent), as the American Lancias were supposed to be a temporary solution for the small range, while the all-new products arrived.
But Lancia didn’t have any chance. By the time the Chrysler rebadged models were launched, I wrote a post about the fact that the brand wasn’t dead. The merge with Chrysler would guarantee more common models to be developed by Chrysler and Lancia for both sides of the Atlantic ocean. The thing is that the problem wasn’t the low sales figures of the Chrysler models but something else. Lancia has been struggling for years to succeed with its cars. The Lybra didn’t work. The fantastic Thesis was a complete disaster. The Phedra was too expensive compared to its twins from PSA and Fiat. The only model to keep Lancia alive was and is still the Ypsilon. Then Lancia had some success with the Musa. In 2009 the brand introduced the beautiful Delta, based on the concept released in 2006. In my opinion, this car is the best example of Marchionne’s decision.
The Delta is a wonderful, original and roomy hatchback with very good engine options at reasonable prices. I had the opportunity to travel in one and I must say that I was positively surprised by its interior, its details, and its comfort. It is a very complete car that had everything to compete with the BMW 1-Series and Audi A3 in the premium C-segment. But its sales figures proved that offering an excellent car wasn’t enough. In 2009, during its first full year of sales, Lancia sold around 30.000 units, and since then the demand hasn’t stopped falling. Not even Italians like it as it is quite down in the ranking and far away from its rivals. Some people could explain this result by the fact that it isn’t a cheap car. However, Lancia worked hard to offer an excellent C-Segment hatchback and few people got it. Therefore I agree with Marchionne’s plans: yes, the Thema and Voyager are not Lancias and consumers don’t even consider them, but the Delta is an excellent car that doesn’t deserve its poor sales results. So the best thing Fiat can do is to concentrate its efforts in Fiat brand and Alfa Romeo, while give Lancia a second place just as the market has done during the last years.