Another chapter in the troubled history of Lancia. This time it comes from an statement made by Luca Napolitano, the brand’s CEO in which he said that “the Delta is wanted by everyone and can’t be missing from our plans”. It was part of more announcements of what we should expect from Lancia in the coming years. But, does everyone really wants a Lancia Delta?
We’ve heard this story before
We are used to the splendid presentations anticipating the future models of the late FCA group. The 2010-2011 industrial plan presented in late 2009 indicated that Chrysler would add a made-in-Italy hatchback to its lineup, while Lancia would get some products from Chrysler. The former never happened, and the latter became a reality in 2011-2012 when Lancia introduced the rebadged Chrysler 200, Chrysler 300 and Chrysler Town & Country.
Then in early 2012, there were rumors, and even spy shots of an imminent Chrysler 100 that would be also the base for a new Lancia Delta. Nothing happened. In 2014, Sergio Marchionne said that “Lancia does not have a history in the foreign market, so it will remain in Italy only”. We know how it all ended.
The relaunch plan is based on a different reality
Although Lancia left the the global markets in 2018, it played a marginal role outside Italy long way before. Its market share in the other big 4 European markets never exceeded 0.15% after the year 2000. I mean, the decision of axing Lancia outside Italy was not a whim.
Between the late 90’s and mid 2010’s, Lancia stopped understanding the market trends. While its rivals from Germany launched their first SUVs, Lancia was still thinking of MPVs. Then it had an identity crisis moving away from the sporty Lancia of the 80’s to become a modern “luxury wanna-be” brand. And finally, the rebadges in 2012 accelerated its crisis outside Italy.
When Lancia left the European markets, no one even noticed.
That’s why it is striking to hear Mr. Napolitano saying that everybody wants a Delta. Is this based on comments from the big fan base, which is by the way quite active in social media?
Everybody wants SUVs
There are many things that don’t add up. First, part of the strong growth of SUVs is happening at the expense of lower hatchbacks. It is not a secret that the popularity of the latter has dropped dramatically during the last 10 years, falling from 49% of new sales in Europe in 2006 to 35% in H1 2021.
The C-Hatch segment, where the Delta plays in, has seen its European sales shrink from 2.47 million units in 2006 to 1.17 million last year, and 580,000 units in H1 2021. Their market share fell from 15.5% in 2006 to 14.5% in 2011, 13.2% in 2015, 9.8% in 2020, and 8.9% in H1 2021. At the same time, the SUVs share jumped from 7% in 2006 to 44.5% in H1 2021.
The situation is even more dramatic within the premium C-Hatch segment. In 2006, the German brands controlled 84% of the segment. This year through June, their market share stayed at 98%. Brands like Infiniti, Lexus, Volvo and Alfa Romeo left the segment.
Based on the sad reality of the hatchbacks in Europe, and the weak position of Lancia after leaving Europe, does it make sense to invest in Lancia and in this hypothetical Delta? Shouldn’t it make more sense to focus on more SUVs for Alfa Romeo?