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Lancia reduced to one model and banished to Italy!

1985 Lancia Delta S4Harsh landing for Lancia… (1985 Lancia Delta S4 pictured)

According to Automotive News, Lancia has seen its last days outside of Italy. Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne will reduce the brand to just the Ypsilon that will be sold only in Italy. “Marchionne is performing Lancia’s final requiem,” said Gianluca Spina, dean of Milan Polytechnic’s business school. “It’s a rational decision for a global carmaker. The brand has no appeal outside Italy.” To end losses in Europe and boost profit globally, Marchionne is expanding the range of upscale Alfa Romeo and Maserati models and rolling out Jeep vehicles worldwide. Even with 55 billion euros ($75 billion) budgeted for investments in the five-year plan, there wasn’t money available to overhaul Lancia, which lacks name recognition outside Europe.

1964 Lancia Flaminia Super Sport1964 Lancia Flaminia Super Sport

Lancia was founded in 1906 by Fiat racecar driver Vincenzo Lancia and once produced curvy roadsters such as the Aurelia Spider that appeared with Bardot in the 1956 film “And God Created Woman.” In the fifties and sixties, its luxurious coupés such as the Flaminia (picture above) and Flavia went head-to-head with Jaguar and Maserati, no less! However, after being acquired by Fiat in 1969, Lancia models veered between sporty hatchbacks like the Delta and big-box sedans such as the Thema. An attempt to renew with its glamourous past by hiring actor Richard Gere and singer Carla Bruni to promote the brand in recent years  has fallen on deaf ears.

1985 Autobianchi Y101985 Autobianchi/Lancia Y10 

From 1985 to 1995, Fiat sold the small Y10 under the Autobianchi brand in Italy, France and Japan but under the Lancia brand elsewhere, contributing to a increasingly diluted brand image. Autobianchi was killed in 1989 but survived until 1995 in Italy after a 40 year history, at which point the Y10 became the Lancia Ypsilon, arguably bringing the brand down market.

2012 Lancia Flavia2012 Lancia Flavia. Rebadging Chryslers was a bad idea indeed.

The linkup with Chrysler provided Lancia with a (slim?) chance to widen its appeal. The merger of the two brands began in 2011, when Marchionne pulled the U.S. nameplate from continental Europe in favor of Lancia, which sold re-badged versions of the Chrysler 300 sedan, 200 convertible and Voyager minivan, respectively called Thema, Flavia and Voyager. Chrysler only survived in the UK where the Delta and Ypsilon were sold under that brand. Confusing? Indeed.

Lancia Ypsilon Italy August 20132011 Lancia Ypsilon in Ventimiglia, August 2013

All in all, Lancia’s decline is the result of an inconsistent strategy that hesitated between upscale and mass-market segments over the years. Lancia sales in Europe dropped 20% in 2013 to just 75,000 units, 76% of which in Italy alone, and sales outside Europe are non-existent. By 2016, Lancia will consist of just the 12,650 euro Ypsilon subcompact as sales of the Delta will end this year and all re-badges next year. The Italian carmaker intends to invest in restyling the Ypsilon next year as the model has been one of the top sellers in Italy over the past decade.

Si a Lancia No a Marchionne Facebook pageSi a Lancia No a Marchionne Facebook page

Lancia’s demise has angered fans. More than 3,000 of the so-called Lancisti signed an online petition to save the brand, a Facebook page titled “Yes to Lancia, No to Marchionne” received almost 9,000 likes, while on Twitter “Occupy Lancia” sends messages to Fiat such as “Lancia will end Delta production: shame on you.”

Lancia Delta Italy June 2012The 2008 Lancia Delta never convinced, even in Italy.

Reducing a carmaker to a single vehicle line in a single country is a veiled death sentence, as even ultra-luxury brands such as Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce have multiple models. But putting Lancia on life support rather than shutting it down outright helps Fiat keep its options open until other models hit the market to fill the gap, according to Ian Fletcher, an analyst with IHS in London. “It looks like a tactical short-term move, Marchionne may wait for Alfa Romeo’s strategy to yield its first results before killing the Lancia brand.”

This Post Has 18 Comments
  1. Root cause looks like Fiat’s Chrysler bailout. Slapping Lancia badges on characterless Chrysler tanks finished off the brand which had already been mis-handled for decades. Never got the new look right, and both Thesis (world’s most advanced lux car) and “new Delta” both looked wrong as Lancia struggled to keep the front distinctive. All that advanced tech was expensive, and high prices lost sales. The Kappa, a nicer car to drive than the far better selling Rover 75, and as good a package as the big Jag, was never launched in RHD for the UK — which used to be Lancia’s biggest market outside Italy.
    Ypsilon (silly name) actually quite popular even in the small French town I live in. And still chic in Paris, but a premium brand in a segment where few see the point of a lux city car. But Fiat dealers can’t even be bothered to get the kit to service them!
    Whatever Fiat does with Alfa, it will never be like Lancia was at its best. A tragedy.

  2. Sad situation for Lancia fans. The brand is hard to keep alive…sales abroad have been always poor and all investments now are concentrated on maserati and alfa for premium brands. Lancia it was a premium brand before fiat took it and ruined it. I hope that with the ferrari/maserati tecnology they can develop some niche models only for europe but at the end what it is important for car producer are to make money or to lose it

  3. Hi Bryan. I know Fiat has the technology and the know-how. No doubt about it. Look at Maserati. The new Ghibli is supercool, the new Quattroporte as well and the Alfieri Concept is simply breathtaking. Love it! Maserati has new models in the showrooms NOW.
    Why is it sooooo difficult for Fiat to do the same work with Alfa and Lancia…

    Alfa returning to the US? A successor for the 166? A new competitor to BMWs 3 series? A new Spider? An Alfa SUV?… I’ve been reading news articles about all these topics for years and years and years… and nothing ever happend.

  4. @Fudan

    Everyone know that VW has a lot of money and that they are very well managed. The question is not that.

    VW already has too much brands, in the last years they have bought, Ducati, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Bentley, Porsche, MAN, Scania, etc, etc..

    The three German manufacteurs, VAG, Daimler and BMW are the only European car manufacteurs that have profits. This happens because the German industry lobby is very strong and it’s prejudicial for the economy of all the Eurozone.

    Alfa Romeo doesn’t need the VW because FIAT Group has a lot of plans for new brand models. Italians have a lot of tecnhology and know-how, Alfa Romeo, Saab, Volvo, etc., have only struggled because a question of brand image and because they aren’t German brands.

  5. I agree with Bryan. Italian cars used to be magnificent in terms of style and engines. German cars only have charisma and name nothing else. They only created image. Audi and VW are really bad in terms of reliability.

  6. Bryan :
    The Alfa Romeo 156 wan’t a splendid car? The 147? The Brera? The GT? Alfa Romeo has release a lot of great cars in the last few years, and FIAT Group has plans for new models in the next years… Nobody want the dirty german money, the people is full of germans and merkels and things like that, i have nothing against German people, but the Europeans just want to live their life without having to hear the Germans all the time about what is good or bad! Leave us alone for once!

    Hi Bryan. I don’t know if german money is dirty or not, some of it might be just as dirty as italian money. Clean or dirty: I just know the german car companies have a lot of it at the moment….

    Anyway if you look at the britishness of Mini, Bentley, Rolls-Royce or the italian-ness of Lamborghini, the czech-ness of Skoda or the spanish-ness of Seat, I think the Germans and their dirty money are doing quite a good job in brand management. Much better, obviously, than FCAs very own Marchionne.

    Funfact: Volvo desperatly wanted to sell itself to VW because they knew under the roof of VW they could keep their swedish heritage and character. And Volvo had lost it all already, if it weren’t for the ex-VW Manager (!) Stefan Jacoby to fight the Chinese owners desire to make the brand more “international”.

    For all I know, VW patriarch Ferdinand Piech is a true admirer of Italy, italian engineering and italian automobil legends. He saved Lamborghini, Ducati and Giugaro.

    Anywhoooo. The loss of Lancia is still sad.

  7. @Fudan

    The Alfa Romeo 156 wan’t a splendid car? The 147? The Brera? The GT? Alfa Romeo has release a lot of great cars in the last few years, and FIAT Group has plans for new models in the next years… Nobody want the dirty german money, the people is full of germans and merkels and things like that, i have nothing against German people, but the Europeans just want to live their life without having to hear the Germans all the time about what is good or bad! Leave us alone for once!

  8. Sad news, Lancia used to be great, I remember the incredible rally cars of the 1970s and 1980s, I suppose making a profit is considered more important than sentimentality.

  9. It´s a pity! Lancia has been a great marque with charisma and pedegree. Thier cars were attractive and a gem do drive and own. I speak for myself because I had 2 Deltas, a 1991 1600 GTie that a loved and a 1995 1600 Lusso LX the second series Delta. Lancia stands out in rallyes and style and many of tehir models made history. The Aurelia was a dream car with high collectable value nowadays. The Fulvia was another dream car with superb motors, strong build reputation and wonderful style. The Beta range was nice to look and drive with excellent chassis and engines. shame!

  10. @Bryan

    Yeah right… Alfa Romeo will be back soon with splendid new models just like in the 60s… I think I am waiting for this to happen since 1995.

    But, in one sense you are right, Bryan: Alfa Romeo will never be dead, because VW has shitloads of money in their pockets to revamp Alfa in a splitsecond.

    oh, and btw: Lancias slow death is indeed painful and sad. But, come on people… this death also started many years ago. This is not at all a surprise.

  11. Sad day indeed. Present day Ypsilon is definetely hideous but Delta (840) at least is one of the most original cars in Europe. After all these years I still don’t know if I like it or not! By the way I work in plastics industry and we produce parts for auto industry. One of the parts is the front of car radio of the Lancia Delta. I noticed during last couple of years number of these parts for Delta were reducing production. Delta is italian but many of its car radios front were in my hands. Italian but also partially made in Marinha Grande, Portugal. 🙂

  12. In 2012 I traveled to Europe and tried to previously (from Brazil) rent an economic car such a Fiesta hatch or even an economic Opel.

    When I went to pick up the car (in Milan) they “pushed” me an Ypsilon, the smaller car of Lancia.

    Ouch!! what a ugly car!!!!

    It was a surprise to me that when I came back to Brazil I saw (in your blog) that Ypsilon was among the 05 best seller car in Italy!

    But now, its not a surprise to me that Ypsilon is saying good bye, along with Lancia…

  13. It’s a sad day for the European car industry. Lancia is one of the most iconic and historic European brands. They have built a lot of type of different vehicles such as trucks, buses, trolleybusus, military vechicles, F1 cars, Rally cars, they have a rich and magnificent history in the Automotive World, this is very sad.

  14. I love Lancia and it will be a big lost if Lancia disappear! Delta is such a gorgeous car. Unofortunately I can’t afford one now but one day I’m gonna own one!

  15. i don’t think its wise to also kill the Lancia brand in France!! with Ypsilon sales were going up the past months!!

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