“In Europe, Lancia is an undersized, underdeveloped brand, with nothing bigger than the Delta. Chrysler, which has a true global reach, has nothing smaller. Put them together and you have a full line-up,” is the short version of Sergio Marchionne’s plans for the Chrysler and Lancia brands. The surprising bit [via Autocar]: “we could see the two converge as early as the end of the year.” For Americans this means that some of the holes in Chrysler’s lineup could be plugged up by rebadged Lancias along the lines of the Delta shown at the Chrysler stand at the Detroit Auto Show. And hey, who are we to say no to all-new Chrysler products? Goodness knows the brand needs something new besides special edition lipstick on the same old pigs. There’s only one hitch…
Rebadged imports are almost always colossal sales flops. Starting with the Saturn Astra and working backwards, it’s almost impossible to find a rebadged import that sold well in the states. And on even cursory inspection, Lancia doesn’t seem to be the brand to break the trend. Hell, Lancias don’t even sell particularly well in Europe.
But there’s a bigger problem too, one that’s played hell with many an import rebadge scheme in the past: price point. If Chrysler is going to start offering models like the Detroit Auto Show Delta in the US by the end of this year, it will be flying into the teeth of same tough economics that made the Astra such a resounding flop.
As this German Lancia price list shows [apologies for the lack of an English version... blame the Brits for voting Lancia off the island back in 1994], the options aren’t great. The only version of the Delta made with an automatic transmission (sadly a must for the US market) is the 1.8 Di T-Jet 16v, which starts at €27,900 or a whopping $39,428 at current exchange rates. Want the Platino top trim level? $42,678 per favore. For a 200hp hatchback. Before shipping it across the Atlantic (US production of Fiat-based Chryslers is a ways off, according to Automotive News [sub].
Granted, the 200hp Volkswagen GTI retails for almost the exact same price in Germany, but sells for $24,000 in the US. Even at that price though, the Delta will face an uphill battle in the US, as it lacks the decades of brand equity the GTI has accumulated in this market. We don’t expect the Chryslerfied Delta to retail at the astronomical prices, but considering that the Delta doesn’t crack the German market’s top 25 best-selling models (which includes such luxe models as the Audi A5 and Merc GLK) we also don’t expect it to sell well in the US even at half what it commands in Europe.
Incidentally, were you aware that Fiat canceled the planned 2009 re-launch of Lancia in the British market ? According to What Car? Fiat’s reason was that “given the current global economic crisis, Fiat Auto has taken the decision to delay the reintroduction of the Lancia brand in right-hand-drive markets beyond 2009.” If Lancia isn’t going to work in the UK, why would it work in America rebadged as the weakest brand in the market? Short answer: it won’t.