Stellantis is a reality and this new chapter between FCA and PSA has finally commenced. A lot of speculation about the upcoming products and strategies has taken place during the last weeks, especially after the announcements made by the CEO Carlos Tavares. One of them concerns the future of Lancia, which I think should not be saved. Below, I’ll tell you why.
Lancia, not in the radar
Although it continues to exist as an independent brand, Lancia became a niche local maker when FCA decided to suspend its presence outside of Italy. It was excluded from the many product plan presentations made by Sergio Marchionne, and reduced to only one model in only one market.
This secondary position within FCA Group was the consequence of several years of mismanagement. It all started in the late 90’s and continued for years with the terrible impact on the brand image and its sales. According to data from several European sources*, the global sales of Lancia fell from an annual average of 142,000 units in the 90’s to 117,000 in the 00’s, and to just 67,000 units in the 10’s.
At the same time its dependence on Italy jumped from 53% in 1994 to 79% in 2014, and 100% since 2018. As Lancia faded away from the European markets, its awareness has also shrunk among young drivers. The glorious past of the Lancia Stratos and Lancia Delta are only in the memories of people above their 40’s, while the younger generations barely know about it.
Suddenly there’s hope
But when everything seemed lost for Lancia, the Stellantis merger suddenly appeared. Under the new group, Lancia is one of the 14 brands that they have available. It now has to compete not only against Fiat and Alfa Romeo in order to get budget, but against mainstreams like Peugeot and Opel. Its 2020 sales volume counted for only 0.7% of the new group’s total, while they represented 1.3% of FCA volume in 2019.
Nevertheless, Carlos Tavares said that Lancia would join Alfa Romeo and DS in the premium pole of Stellantis. The announcement gave hope to the brand and its fans, and put Lancia back in the news. But is it sensible to talk about a resurrection of Lancia? Does Tavares really mean it?
Saving Lancia? Absolutely not
I don’t know his motivations, but it is my belief that giving another chance to Lancia is not sensible at all. These are my reasons:
- There are other priorities in the pipeline: the rinascimento of Alfa Romeo, with the Giulia and Stelvio, did not work. More than Lancia, the resources and efforts in the premium side of Stellantis must go to save Alfa Romeo and give oxygen to DS. They can barely manage these two premium brands, why would they need a third one?
- No possible positioning: how would Stellantis position Lancia within the brand portfolio? as a premium fancy brand? there is already DS; as a performance luxury brand? there’s already Maserati; as a sporty premium brand as it was once in the 80’s? there is already Alfa Romeo; as a semi-premium brand? there is already Peugeot. Honestly, I don’t see how Lancia could find its own personality in such a big universe of brands.
- Lack of awareness and bad reputation: why would you bother to relaunch a brand that left the European dealers 4 years ago after leaving a bad image? if there’s awareness among today’s buyers, it is a primarily a negative one.
- You can’t live from the past: Italy is a country that loves its traditions and the old days. It is part of its DNA and that’s probably what makes it so special. It happens to cars too: so many people are nostalgic about the glorious years when Lancia won the rally competitions and produced awesome cars. They think that Lancia could return by doing the same, but they forget that the world is different, and the Italian market is not a key market anymore.
- No international projection: if Opel struggles to expand its presence outside Europe, why would Lancia be more successful? Without sales potential in North America and China, the chances for a premium car brand are almost non-existent. Ask Jaguar or even DS.
*ANFIA, UNRAE, CCFA, KBA, Aniacam, ACEA