07 October 2011

We want Lancia, not Chrysler

Trying to see the logic behind Fiat’s decision of selling badge engineered Lancias in the UK.

LANCIA is back in the UK, but not as we know it. Fiat, Lancia’s parent company did want to bring the Italian name back in Blighty. Not knowing for sure on why Fiat haven’t brought Lancia back. Fiat got cold feet and had second thoughts. So the plan was pulled back, if not abandoned altogether.

Fiat have bought a stake in Chrysler. With the future business strategy plans from Fiat is that Lancias will be sold across Europe. In the UK and Ireland however, they will be rebadged as Chryslers. Not sure how I can see the logic in this.

To me, Lancia has more prestige and kudos than Chrysler does. Let's be honest here, any European brand will have more than those from America. Fiat don't realise that Lancia (as a marque) has a lot of interest from car enthusiasts in the UK. Many Brits would welcome the return with open arms.

Lancia is a marque with a rich heritage; with an illustrious past and has made some very desirable cars. The Fulvia, Stratos, Monte Carlo, Thema 8.32 and the Delta HF Intergrale to name a few. Not only that, Lancia have have been very successful in motorsport, especially in rallying.

Why Fiat has decided to sell Lancias as "Chryslers" in the British Isles is really anyone's guess. I'm trying to understand here on the reasons behind Fiat's decision on making this move. But I think it all stems back to Lancia from the 1970s and beyond.

Most would say that the Beta ruined Lancia - well in the UK, it did.

In the 1970s, Lancia's reputation took a nose dive in the UK. They became notoriously known for rust and poor reliability and it all stems back to the Beta. It's been well documented that they were notoriously known for prematurely rotting. The cars themselves had poor-quality steel and inadequate water drainage channels. The bodywork had no or little rust protection that made the cars very rust-prone.

To be fair, most cars rusted with age made by other manufacturers at the time. But their issues hadn't gone public in the media spotlight, therefore not suffer such scrutiny that Lancia did with the Beta. The rust scandal made it the headlines on the newspapers - most notably in the Daily Mirror. There was even a television documentary about Lancia's corrosion crisis.

The damage was done from Lancia's reputation for rust in the UK. Lancia tried to find solutions to save their image and restore consumer confidence in people buying their cars. By making campaigns for the owners whose Betas have been affected by the tinworm. They could part exchange their Beta for another Lancia or Fiat, or their dealer could buy back the car back. The choice was left to them. Any cars they took back was inspected for rust. If the subframes were affected by rust, Lancia scrapped the cars.

The rust scandals surrounding the Beta meant that Lancia suffered the consequences. As they never recovered from it, the result was that it cost them sales. The number of cars they sold in the UK plummeted in later years that lead to Lancia pulling out of the British market in 1994. Since then, they haven't made nor sold any Right Hand Drive cars.

To date, Lancia holds the crown in winning more World Rally Championship titles than any other manufacturer.

Today, Lancia don't make cars like they used to. You can forget the elegant sports cars like the Fulvia and Monte Carlo. Or eccentric performance cars like the Delta HF Intergrale and the Thema 8.32. Since Fiat's acquisition of Alfa Romeo in 1986. Lancia has been moved to being the luxury arm of the Fiat family, whereas Alfa Romeo is the sporty brand. Lancia's sporting assets have pretty much been stripped.

To some extent, Lancia still build cars true to their tradition. With the emphasis being on quality and comfort. But they don't make cars with the sporting pedigree that they're so well known for - which is what many loved about Lancia. But don't get me wrong, they don't make boring cars.

The past is possibly one reason why Fiat decided not to bring Lancia back to the UK and Ireland. They're convinced that more people would buy a Chrysler rather than a Lancia. The thing is though, the rust scandal Lancia got themselves caught up into with the Beta happened over 30 years ago. Most people will have forgotten about it by now.

But it's not just Lancia's past on why Fiat decided not to bring Lancia back to Blighty. Due to Lancia's absence from the British market over a period of time. The Italian brand's existence and dealer network has disappeared. It would cost Fiat a lot of time and money to relaunch Lancia in the UK. To re-establish the brand from advertising campaigns to buying and launching dealer networks.

As they have a stake in Chrysler, they're saving time and money by selling the Ypsilon and Delta as Chryslers. This is because Chrysler is established in the UK market. It would be easier for Fiat to sell the cars through their dealers as Chrysler already have a dealer network.

At the end of the day, it has more commerical value if the Ypsilon and Delta was sold as a Lancia rather than a Chrysler in the UK. As I mentioned earlier in this post, a Lancia is more credible than a Chrysler - especially to car enthusiasts. When I think of Chrysler, I think of big and brash cars like the 300C and the Voyager. Not small cars like the re-badged Lancias. I genuinely don't think Chrysler has more core value than Lancia in my opinion.

The Lancia Ypsilon will be available in the UK, but will be wearing a Chrysler badge of all horrors.

I wouldn't be surprised for those who buy a Chrysler Ypsilon or Chrysler Delta. Replacing the Chrysler badges with with Lancia ones. No doubt there will be specialists in the near future who can make a quid from converting Chryslers to Lancias.

Maybe, just maybe, that one day Lancia will officially come back to the UK. Well buying a "Chrysler" Ypsilon or Delta is the closest you can get to buying a brand new one.

What do you think of the Chrysler badged Lancias? Would you buy one? Over to you on that...


  1. I agree with this 100%. The "brainwave" to sell Lancias as Chryslers in the UK is another typical bad Fiat decision on par with the bad facelift of the Grande Punto (which has lost the car masses of sales Europe-wide outside Italy) and the ongoing delays to Alfa's Giulia. It almost seems as if Fiat is incapable of making correct business decisions. I would have loved to buy a RHD Lancia Delta (with the pre-Chrysler merger grille) but have zero interest in a false Chrysler. It will be interesting to see how many of those who buy one of the new fake-Chryslers then swap the badges and grilles over? I know I would. The irony is, that in some EU countries Chrysler actually outsold Lancia, but I have a feeling we Brits would have gone for Lancia much more over Chrysler. Why could Fiat not have had combined Lancia-Chrysler branded dealerships throughtout Europe. Chrysler for the large MPV and Lancia for the quirky Italian hatches? 

    1. Absolutely Andy, Fiat could have definitely tested the waters by selling Lancias in the same dealers alongside Chryslers. Especially in Britain and Ireland. Merging Lancia and Chrysler is a bad decision by Fiat and they shouldn't be badge engineered products.

      I couldn't agree more on your comment that Lancia should be left to building quirky Italian hatches; Chrysler with big, brash cars like the 300C and Voyager. No one's fooled, the new "Lancia Thema" is a re-badged Chrysler 300C and is as Italian as a quarter pound cheeseburger. The same goes for the "Chrysler" Delta which is as American as Lasagne


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