Remember, in the late ’80s, the Italian Lancia was the sports brand par excellence. After dominating rallies with its Lancia Stratos in the 1970s, the transalpine manufacturer went on to win titles with its Delta Integrale HF.
The brand’s cars are the dream stuff of a whole generation of enthusiasts, everything is going well. May 2014: The CEO of the FCA Group officially announces the end of Lancia in Europe. The brand will be content to sell its Ypsilon in Italy as long as demand lasts.
End point of a story that is nevertheless incredibly rich and prestigious. But how did Lancia get there?
A slow decline
The problems began in the 1990s: the new models were not convincing, the strategy of the FIAT group was unclear and customers began to distance themselves from the brand. The leaders of the group do not hesitate to complain about the lack of loyalty of the brand’s lovers.
Lancia is one of the most collected brands in the world. But these enthusiasts, who spend their weekends pampering their vintage Lancia, drive competing brands, often German ones, on a daily basis.
Lancia seems to be taking its time to understand that there is a real problem. Sales are eroding massively and with it the motivation of the network. The worm is in the fruit.
Lancia has to make sacrifices
In the early 2010s, the world changed. FIAT Group became FCA for FIAT Chrysler Automobiles. Losing money is out of the question in this risky merger. Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Maserati die.
The group has a $55 billion plan to restart. That’s enough to take care of the American brands Maserati and Alfa Romeo. It’s too much to invest in Lancia. But Marchionne has an idea.
He will make huge savings by converting Chrysler models into Lancia! An almost free measure that allows the Italian brand to have a range of “new” vehicles without investing a penny.
smell of scandal
At the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, visitors were horrified to discover that the Chrysler Voyager had become the Lancia Voyager. A large minivan that has a hard time hiding its American van origins.
A few months later it was the turn of the big Lancia Thema sedan to show itself. The fears of the buyers are confirmed: It is neither more nor less than a rebadged Chrysler 300. The typical American sedan has absolutely nothing to do with the previous Lancia sedans, which were often drawn with curves when the American cut with a billhook becomes.
To top it off, we’ll be releasing the Lancia Flavia name to sell a Chrysler 200 Cabriolet, a model that even Americans don’t want. We would try to kill Lancia that we wouldn’t do it any other way.
Obviously, this strategy doesn’t work. Regular Lancia buyers, often pure Italian car enthusiasts, are running away. Prospects who didn’t already buy American cars when they were called Chrysler are, of course, absentee subscribers.
Almost three years after the launch of the Lancia Voyager, Marchionne announces that Lancia is withdrawing from the Italian market alone. Worse, only the Ypsilon, which is still selling very well in Italy, will survive in the range.
In a state of clinical death since 2014, Lancia will be reborn across Europe until 2024, with models of the Stellantis platforms but “with a particularly lavish design”. Has the brand learned the lesson?
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