When Chrysler revealed its Five Year plan last year, product plans showed the PT Cruiser dieing off after 2010 with no planned replacement. Then, earlier this year, Chrysler rebadged a Lancia Delta and brought it along to the Detroit Auto Show without saying much about it. Now, Motor Trend says a production version of the Chryslerized Delta Concept will be shown at the next Geneva Auto Show, raising the possibility that the Lancia could come to the US… and soon. Sure, it’s possible that the Delta will simply be for other markets where the Lancia/Chrysler two-face will show its Chrysler side (the UK and Brazil come to mind), but Chrysler needs to beef up its US volume to keep the turnaround turning around. And that means not only replacing the PT, but bringing customers in with something new and fresh. Could a PT Corsa fit the bill?
OK, so we’ve been convinced that the re-born “Lancia Stratos” isn’t just a photoshop… but honestly, we wish it was. Because then the autoblogosphere might not have spent half the week running silly headlineslike “It’s Real!” and “Headed To Production!” and “My Sophisticated Appreciation For The Iconic Lancia Stratos Just Got All Over My Favorite Pair Of Blogging Sweatpants!” The reason that these headlines need to stop are simple: 1) Nobody will ever see this car on the road, 2) it will never be offered for sale, 3) It’s not even a freaking Lancia and 4) the entire story is so knee-deep in bullshit that it’s amazing anyone pays even the remotest bit of attention to it. And since we’re speaking truth to fanboyishness, I’ll just go ahead and say it : nobody actually wants a Lancia Stratos anyway… and even if they did, they certainly wouldn’t want this new one. Yes, you heard me.
Fiat Chairman Luca Cordero Di Montezemolo will be leaving the firm to pursue a career in Italian politics, according to Automotive News [sub]. Montezemolo will remain on Fiat’s board, and will continue to serve as chairman of Ferrari, but he will be replaced atop the Fiat empire by vice-chairman and Agnelli family heir John Elkann. Fiat’s shares rallied considerably this morning, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, but not because Montezemolo is on the way out. Rather, Fiat has finally announced the news that speculators have been waiting patiently for: the firm now confirms that it plans to spin off its auto business.
It’s both annoying and strangely prophetic (we think) that Lancia and Chrysler don’t have one of those convenient “Brangelina” names, like Lancsler or Chrycia. Fiat’s execs aren’t exactly being subtle about the merging of the two brands, but then they’re also not giving us a lot of glimpses at the stunning execution that it will take to turn two marginal marques into a single, halfway viable brand. It’s almost as if the two are just being pushed together in a forced, unnatural manner, and the results thus far show a distinct lack of inspiration. Not convinced? Hit the jump for your morning glass of has it really come to this? [via unica-strada.com].
Today’s review of the Fiat Bravo is more than just a unique look at a European-market vehicle that will never be sold in the United States: it’s an(other) early look at the future of Chrysler. Sergio Marchionne has called the C and D segments “critical” for US-market success, and the C-Evo platform that lies beneath the Fiat Bravo tested today, will form the basis for planned 2012 replacements to the Caliber and PT Cruiser and possibly the re-launched Sebring and Avenger (reportedly in stretched form). Indeed, the Lancia-trimmed version, known as the Delta, was shown at the Detroit Auto Show in Chrysler-brand drag, apparently to prove how easy these rebadges will be. As cynical as this might seem, Mr Bronfer’s relatively positive review leaves little doubt that Fiat’s got more to offer the C and D segments than the aging, neglected Mitsubishi platform that currently underpins Chrysler’s offerings in these classes. In that sense, this is some of the most positive news we’ve heard about Chrysler’s future in a while.
Chrysler/Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has a handful of brand management on his plate, as he aligns his two firms for the future. Merging Lancia and Chrysler was an obvious move; creating one full-line brand (albeit with different names from market to market) is a lot better than trying to keep two distinct brands, although even with their powers combined, Chrysler/Lancia is going to have an uphill struggle. With Lancia “taken care of,” the biggest problem on Fiat’s plate is Alfa Romeo, which has reportedly lost €200m-€400m per year for the last decade.
“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…
Having been told by the Secretary of Transportation that the Chrysler Group’s motley assortment of new trim level names, rebadged Lancias, decal-sporting special editions represents “the cutting edge of developing the kind of products that I think people in this country, and also in other countries, are really going to feel very favorable toward,” CEO Sergio Marchionne apparently thought enough had been said about his struggling bailout baby. As CBS reports, Marchionne suddenly canceled a 45-minute scheduled press availability before he had the chance to confirm LaHood’s astonishing opinion.
The very first post-bankruptcy, Chrysler-brand advertisement was a true re-badge, literally replacing Lancias with Chryslers in the exact same advertisement. The second spot, which we ran yesterday, was a vague, year-end spot emphasizing history and heritage while showing only one modern car. Though it’s not a strict re-badge like the Lancia ad, the new Chrysler ad is, at the very least, based on some serious platform-sharing. Specifically the ad above, an Italian-language spot for the Fiat Group, is thematically identical to the Chrysler ad.
The AFP reports that Chrysler is “currently reconsidering how it uses major auto shows for revealing new vehicles and concepts,” by way of explaining why Chrysler has “nothing new” for the Detroit Auto Show. Spokesman Rick Denau explains “we’d like to do things closer to the on-sale date of the vehicles and most of our new stuff isn’t coming until the second half of the year.” In reality, Chrysler is pushing the limits of the possible with its attempt to re-work the Chrysler and Dodge lineups in record time. Except for the new 300 and Grand Cherokee which made ill-fated debuts in Chrysler’s “viability plan” Chrysler’s refreshed products won’t be ready for public consumption until shortly before they go on sale, and it’s still likely that some of those release dates could be pushed back. In the meantime, Fiat will rebadge a Lancia as a Chrysler for the Detroit show. Because that’s almost as good as showing a new model, and it’s certainly as good as it gets for Chrysler right now.
In a lengthy, wide-ranging interview with Automotive News [sub], Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne got an awkward question from AN’s Luca Ciferri.
Your five-year plan forecasts that Chrysler’s operating margin will peak at 7 to 7.7 percent of revenues in 2014. In November 2006, you predicted that Fiat Group Automobiles’ operating margin would peak at 4.5 to 5.3 percent in 2010. How could Chrysler’s post-global recession peak profitability be 50 percent higher than Fiat Group’s pre-global recession assumptions?
See this ad for Lancia and/or world peace? Now check out the first post-bankruptcy Chrysler brand advertisement here. Noticing any similarities? It seems that there’s trouble brewing in the Fiat family, and “Don” Marchionne has strongly suggested that the new boy to the family, Chrysler, could take over some of Lancia’s profile. Automotive News [sub] reports that the Chrysler brand will appear on Lancias (A.K.A rebadging) in many international markets, and that Lancias could become a niche marque.