By on November 22, 2011

Chrysler’s latest “Imported From Detroit” ad, which seems to be trying to convince itself to “see it through,” continues the brand’s recent tradition of associating itself (perhaps a bit too closely) with the trials and tribulations of the city of Detroit. That approach, like the 300 itself, might play well in parts of the US market… but Chrysler needs its cars (and ads) to do more. Imagine how this ad might go over in Berlin or Milan, and you might catch a glimpse of Chrysler’s larger challenge: making its cars relevant globally as both Chryslers and Lancias.

Chrysler’s marketing honcho Olivier Francois may think that Chrysler and Lancia combine to create a “superbrand,” but of course it’s not that easy.

After all, what on earth says Lancia about the new barely-disguised “Thema”? It seems that Mr Olivier was filled with the “see it through” spirit when he claimed that the two brands were a perfect match: necessity, not compatibility made the marriage between Chrysler and Lancia. And considering they combined for less volume than Alfa in the European market through the first three quarters of this year, it’s pretty clear that this shotgun marriage isn’t going much of anywhere. And no wonder: in the words of Robert Verganti, a management professor at Milan Polytechnic [via Bloomberg]

It’s extremely difficult to succeed in a strategy of globalizing design. The risk is making international cars with no personality. When you buy a Lancia, you are looking for a piece of Italy, and when you choose a Chrysler, you are getting a slice of America.

Which is why Fiat’s former Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa designer, Lorenzo Ramaciotti, has taken the lead on the Chrysler-Lancia branded design portfolio. If anyone is going to find designs that simultaneously says “Chrysler” and “Lancia,” it’s the guy who designed the Quattroporte, GranTourismo, F430, and Alfa 4C Concept… right? Says Ramaciotti

We are trying to find an international language, which could have a place both here in Italy and in the U.S. If you put all the models into the showroom, they must fit together. It’s a delicate problem. We don’t want to do pure badge-engineering; it has never worked well in the long runWe should be global in sharing platforms and strategies without dulling the product line.”

Well, if nothing else, there’s the proof we finally need that the only people who think rebadging can work are marketers with nothing else in their bag of tricks. In all seriousness, the fact that Fiat-Chrysler has someone with that perspective leading global Chrysler/Lancia design can only be a good sign. After all, I may not be a big fan of Mr Ramaciotti’s Maserati Kubang SUV, but at least it doesn’t look like a rebadge. Although speaking of the Kubang, Bloomberg’s conversation with Ramaciotti does bring up one other point that the old designer might not be able to do anything about: the fact that Chrysler’s large cars and SUVs may not sell well as Lancias regardless of their designs.

“People are coming into the showroom to have a look,” said Roberto Ferrari, who owns a Lancia dealer outside Milan. “Reactions are good. The Thema is pretty, design is attractive for Italians, too, but no one is buying these kinds of cars now,” because the debt crisis calls for understatement.

Lancia’s real problem is that 90% of its sales come from the next country in the Euro sovereign debt crisis line of fire. In that environment, any Lancia is going to face sales challenges, let alone a large, Chrysler-derived Lancia. With Europe reaping the whirlwind economically, perhaps now is the time for Fiat-Chrysler to bite the bullet, drop its weakest brand, and let Mr Ramaciotti get to work designing, passionate, lust-worthy Chryslers. Better to concentrate on creating Chryslers that are appealing the world over than to fret over how to Americanize European cars for Chrysler and Europeanize American cars for Lancia.

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18 Comments on “Chrysler: Imported From Detroit. I Mean Turin. I Mean…...”

  • avatar

    I agree….this is not the best marketing strategy and they are really limiting the area this appeals to. Auto Ratings and Reviews

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm one of them needs tailfins to be more distiquished. :P

  • avatar

    Unless Sergio has had a new inspirational moment, “The Plan” has never been to market Chrysler & Lancia as global brands. Chrysler sells in North America and the British Isles. Lancia sells in Western Europe, and where ever the name rings a bell in Eastern Europe. Having said that, I agree that even with limited geography, badge engineering these 2 different brands would be a challenge. It will be a very difficult task to keep Lancia relevant in Europe using Chrysler platforms, even for the talented Mr Ramaciotti. My best guess is that the Lancia dealer network will merge with the Alfa network in Europe, while Fiat, Alfa, & Jeep will carry the Group’s flag globally.

  • avatar

    How to create a new sex symbol today by crossing Jane Mansfield with Gina Lollobrigida? Difficult, isn’t it? There are new girls on the block.

  • avatar

    Other than the badging are there any differences from US spec???

  • avatar

    It’s interesting that the car featured in this “Imported from Detroit” ad is in fact …… imported from Ontario, Canada

  • avatar

    Rule one of any marketing strategy, avoid the repeated use of the word fail or any synonym of fail when describing your product

  • avatar

    The whole tenure of FIAT over Chrysler has the look of farce. Are so many MBA-trained business and marketing people truly this clueless? FIAT should have done one of two things – Be an owner in name only and keep the businesses and products separate, or been prepared to truly combine technologies and economies of scale to capture a small number of markets. They’ve done neither, if anything, this escapade smacks of GM at its worst when it was inventing ridiculous ‘brands’ like Asuna.
    As for Chrysler’s “Imported” series of ads, you can only play that card (The plucky victim when times are tough thing) so long before people wonder, “so are you up off the canvass yet? Or, aren’t you up off the canvass yet??”

  • avatar

    Imagine how this ad might go over in Berlin or Milan, and you might catch a glimpse of Chrysler’s larger challenge: making its cars relevant globally as both Chryslers and Lancias.

    The ad has an American football player in it. It’s meant for an American audience.

    And wasn’t Muddy the man?

  • avatar

    About 20 seconds in, after Muddy does a couple of Oh Yeahs and noodles a little on the guitar, either Muddy or Johnny Winter (this is from Hard Again or the other album Muddy did with Johnny’s Blue Sky label) yells “Whoa” and the band kicks off as hard as a band can.

    Evathang gawn be awright this mawnin’ Mama, indeed.

  • avatar

    Problem is that the brands stands for such different things. They had very little in common at all. So to merge them and create a product that fit both brands is close to impossible. Now if it was Vacel Vega and Chrysler, it might be a better fit. I can see a car that’s sold as Vacel Vegas in Europe and Chrysler in the U.S. Lancia, not so much. The “new” Chrysler Delta is just unrecognizable as a Chrysler. Same thing with the Lancia Thema, nothing Lancia about it at all. Not saying they can’t share platforms, but a simple rebadge won’t do at all.

    • 0 avatar

      Neither brand stands for anything anymore. A rebadged Lancia Delta hatchback is worlds better than a Chrysler PT Loser. Similarly, A rebadged Chrysler 300 is better that rusts into nothing after a few years.

      As long as the cars sell, who cares?

  • avatar

    I don’t see the problem. Lancia has been effectively dead for decades. They’ve been pulled from some markets, having consumed their brand equity by selling rebadged FIATs that rusted at a visible pace. The last ‘Lancia’ Lancia was the tremendously flawed Lancia Gamma of 1976-1984. Even then the volume Lancias were FIATs in all but name. And the one real Lancia wasn’t any better, being prone to engine failures induced by turning the steering wheel, which caused the power steering pump to throw its drive belt, which also happened to be the timing belt. Whoops. In some ways Lancia and Chrysler are very much alike. They both once had a formidable reputation for engineering and quality, and they both squandored those reputations by selling cars that were attractive but made out of crud.

  • avatar

    I’m sure that numerous Phd dissertations have been written about the powerful psychology of brand names — especially brands that shamelessly live off past glories.

    As consumers and car enthusiasts, all we can do is keep our wits about us. Buy the car you like best. Don’t worry about the name on the nose or fraudulent appeals to patriotism.

  • avatar

    It’s clear what is going on here. I don’t think the sh__’s going to stick to the wall, though. Would appreciate more perspective from European readers on why these guys find it so important to hang on to the Lancia name.

  • avatar

    I don’t give a damn where it’s from. I’m about to buy my 3RD Chrysler 300. Trading from SRT8 2006 to SRT8 2013.

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