Lancia-Chrysler Rebadging Imminent, Stand By For Sticker Shock
“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.
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Firstly, I own a Lancia, bought new in 2000 and with currently 222,000kms (about 130,000miles) I have never had anything immobilise the car and the only corrections were of a very minor nature; to my, this is as good as a Toyota...and nothing has ever been done on it due to a recall, unlike Toyotas galore recently... in terms of pricing, these new Deltas are extremely well equipped compared to equivalent German makes, so unless one compares options prices etc, just looking at advertised retail prices will give you the wrong picture. Furthermore, German VAT is over 19% whereas tax on cars in the USA is much lower. It is true though, that car prices in the USA are far lower than in Europe even if different tax regimes are ignored. Chrysler could never sell the Delta for $40,000 against a BMW 320 or Audi A4...in any case, these cars are much more expensive than the Delta in Europe - here one can compare it in pricing to a BMW 1 series or an Audi A3 (which are much smaller); in fact the Delta well equipped is similar in price to a rather plain 1 series...so there could be room to offer it in the USA at a decent price depending on how Fiat chooses to market it...in any case, if they can increase production to meet US demand, unit prices would drop...and with a little marginal cost pricing logic applied, significantly lower prices could potentially still be profitable... I have driven the 1.8 Turbo with 200hp (automatic) and its a very, very impressive car! It would be perfect for America, as it is also very, very roomy on the back seat and a decent trunk...the rear bench can be pushed forward to increase luggage space or back to have more leg room... The car could give Chrysler the opportunity to move their image a little upward, but will enough people be brave enough to plonk their money down on one? And how would the other Chrysler products in the pipeline compare to it quality-wise? ALL of them would have to be as good, otherwise forget it... You can read something on the car in English here: http://www.carmagazine.co.uk/Drives/Search-Results/First-drives/Lancia-Delta-CAR-review/ Fiat in the end never launched the brand in the UK due to the crisis, but the test gives you a good insight into the car's qualities...and the new 200hp one with the sequential automatic gearbox is much better still! We here in Europe are dreading what Chryslers will eventually be rebadged as Lancias...let's wait and see on what platforms these will be built on and which engines they'll have...
The Fact is Lancia was a strong brand in Europe once and they have made some superb cars in the past - Do a search on cars such as the Flavia, Aurelia and Integrale Rally Car not to mention the infamous (in a good way) Stratos - Forget Audi Quatro and Subaru Imprezza rather look at the Lancia Delta Integrale that won so many competions in Europe and was world rally car, your see lancia were once very good. From over in Europe Lancia suffered after the early 90's and was under utilised by its parent company Fiat - Lancia was a Luxury maker in the 30's and 40's very similiar to Buick & Cadillac. Alfa Romeo another Fiat company since 1986 has taken over the ground of Lancia offering upmarket sporty cars that make a pleasnt alternative to the Tuetonic brands of Germania - Alfa's are loved by many as is the Nuovo Fiat 500 - Lancia did leave the shores of Grande Britannia in 1994 but the brand is still popular among enthusiats who would love to see a right hand drive Delta again. Chrysler just aint that popular in the Uk the only ones that sell are the Jeeps and some of the larger Sedans but we want Diesel or small over here for them to do any good - What you Yanks have to realise is listen to Fiat they invented the Common Rail Diesel Engine and are doing OK in these credit crunch times but they Need Chryler as much as Fiat need them and they make some great Euro Size Cars !