By on May 18, 2012

Nobody said it would be easy to sell a rebadged American large car in America, but with the recent economic hammering that Italy and other countries have endured, the market for the Lancia Thema, a rebadged Chrysler 300, is suffering in Italy and the rest of Europe.

Italy enacted a luxury tax on January 1st that will be slapped on vehicles making 252 horsepower or more. Buyers of the Thema would have to pay 500 euro per year due to its 285 horsepower rating. Even though a tax-exempt diesel version is offered, the Thema is faring poorly, along with the rest of the large car market, which is down 75 percent compared to 2011. The Thema is selling 25 percent of what was expected

Two other Lancia vehicles that began life as Chryslers are seeing mixed results. The Lancia Voyager, a rebadged Chrysler Town & Country, is suffering because its traditional client base, like hotel operators, are holding off due to economic uncertainty. The Fiat Fremont, a rebadged Dodge Journey, is doing fairly well, due to a bigger marketing presence, a sticker price 20 percent cheaper than its predecessor and available all-wheel drive. The Fremont should hit its sales targets this year if sales can be sustained at current pace.

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35 Comments on “Italy Says “Vaffanculo” To Lancia’s Rebadged Chrysler 300...”

  • avatar

    Ma che sorpresa…

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    And with that you reminded me years of hearing swearing in Italian. Thanks!

  • avatar
    Dr. Claw

    When I saw that the Thema, a car that started its life as cousin to the Saab 9000 and damn-near twin to the Fiat Croma, was going to be relaunched as a very obvious Chrysler 300 rebadge, I knew it wouldn’t go well.

    The current 300 is cool, but don’t call it a “Lancia” unless you can make it look more like one (i.e. give it its own sheetmetal ala the Charger, one that makes it look like a Lancia is supposed to look like — namely a Delta or the much-maligned Beta).

  • avatar

    I can see the 300 as a Lancia, but right now, the timing isn’t so hot due to the economic woes in Europe, especially Southern Europe, but then again, who knew it would get to this point when the plans were adopted?

    Then again, the 300 may be a BIT too large for Europeans in a general sense but who knows when many of their SUV’s are almost as large as our bigger models here in the states.

    The Freemont, I’m not surprised as it probably fills more of an actual need than the other two, even in this economy so people buy it as I’m sure people are being careful with their choices right now with spending their hard earned money in these troubled times.

    • 0 avatar

      The 10% EU auto tariff doesn’t help (few are going to be willing to pay that kind of premium for a Fiat/rebadged Chrysler) the 300, but the made in Mexico Freemont doesn’t have such a problem.

  • avatar

    “The Thema is selling 25 percent of what was expected”

    I assume you got this figure from Fiat themselves, since the reality is WAY worse than that.

    Over March and April, the Thema shifted less than 70 units a month in Italy. Its numbers have been in decline ever since it was launched in October. In fact, aside from when it was launched, when examples being shipped to dealers distorted the figures, it hasn’t cracked a hundred registrations in ANY month. Let’s be generous and say they manage another 50 units across the rest of Europe monthly. That’s an absolute maximum (and we are using very generous assumptions here) of around 1200-1500 units a year.

    The actual stated target was “between 15,000 and 20,000 units a year”, according to the WSJ:

    The tax is essentially irrelevant, since absolutely no-one in Europe buys a petrol executive car and neither of the diesel versions are sufficiently powerful to enact it. It’s not selling because it’s a joke offering against the Germans in this segment and because Italians aren’t idiots, despite Marchionne’s attitude that they can be fed gruel.

    (Incidentally, just for comparison, the Thesis was one of the biggest flops in Lancia’s history and it managed around 4k units in its first year on sale.)

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think the problem is that the car is a joke – for the money, it’s probably a pretty good car (I should know for sure next week, when I get to drive it). The problem is the badge.

      Chrysler 300 sold quite well (for an American car) around here, I see them on the road all the time. Not even remotely as often as Germans or Volvos, but often.

      The problem is that most people who would buy American car like it because it IS AMERICAN. They want big, comfortable landbarge for good money. And Thema, with much better interior than last 300C, fits that bill very well.

      But if you are European and want a Chrysler, you want a Chrysler, not a Lancia.

      And if you want Lancia, you don’t want an American landbarge.

      I actually think that grey-imported 300s outsell the Themas, even with the absence of the much-important diesel engine.

  • avatar
    Hildy Johnson

    I recently read that, to my surprise, the mafia is on the wane in Italy – maybe that explains it.

  • avatar

    All of the models mentioned have the Pentastar V6 and more than 252 horsepower, so it would seem the Freemont is doing okay despite the tax on the gas engine (I assume it has a diesel version too).

    • 0 avatar

      If they (Fiat) are following the same policy they do in Brazil, the Fiat Freemont (known elsewhere as Dodge Journey), is only sold with a 2.4 L engine (that I’m unsure if it’s Chrysler or Fiat). I’m also pretty sure Italians get a diesel Freemont. Here, Brazil, they reserve the V6 for the Dodge.

      In other news, the Freemont is doing well down here. In the general SUV/CUV market (they’re all lumped into the same segment here), it’s selling only less than Honda’s CRV.

    • 0 avatar

      Freemont is offered with very good Fiat’s multijet diesels. Up to 2 liters, up to about 170hp, lots of torque. I doubt more than a few will be sold with the Pentastar V6.

    • 0 avatar

      The Freemont is also selling well due to it not being hit with the 10% EU auto tariff since it is produced in Mexico.

  • avatar

    Big American gas guzzlers not selling well in Europe. This is news?

    • 0 avatar

      Listen carefully, the 300 is no larger than an Audi, BMW, Mercedes, of the same class, nor does it consume any more gas than the others. How many vehicles did the Germans sell here when they first started? Everyone, but you, apparently, realizes that this car will evolve to suit the Lancia buyer, as time and money permit. In the meantime it’s an excellent first step in reviving a brand that should probably have been discontinued. The problem with trollers like you is that you think quarterly and monthly sales actually mean something. It takes time to rebuild any thing that has been devalued, Chrylser/ Lancia included. Check back in 5 years, stupid.

      • 0 avatar

        Y u mad bro?

      • 0 avatar

        Well, it’s 20 cm longer than a 5 serie (F10), weights 300 kgs more but gives you (in the diesel version) 190 cv (out of a 3.0 l engine !) when you “only” got 184 out of a 2.0l engine for the F10. And don’t get me started on the image issue. Obviously the BMW is probably less well equipped, but I don’t know anybody who’s in the market for that kind of car who would even look at what is basically a poor exercise in rebadging.

      • 0 avatar

        Addendum: it’s a bit larger too (5 to 10 cms) than a Audi A6, BMW 5 serie and Mercedes E. Besides, looking at what Lancia is trying to sell these days you’ve two “daring” cars (Ypsilon & Delta), a rebadged Fiat (Musa) and two American imports. Being basically 10 years old, the 300 will only get Lancia further down. They should have kept/upgrade the Thesis, at least it was coherent with the Delta and Ypsilon in trying to be different. It will take more than 5 years to sort out that mess and lots of money. And I don’t think Fiat has both of them.
        Maybe they should advertise it as a cheap 7 serie (they have the same size) ? Not that I think it would work either.

  • avatar

    Never mind that given the narrow nature of most of the roads in Europe, this thing isn’t exactly the easiest to get around in or park.

    • 0 avatar

      We have the same S-Class and Murcielago in our narrow streets as are sold in the USA. Maybe we’re just better at driving, not needing an effing prairie-wide road?

  • avatar

    In hindsight it all makes sense. Chrysler 300C was sold in Europe for a number of years and the few with enough money who wanted one because they cared about that brash American image, probably got one. The Chrysler badge suited that image very well.

    As a Lancia, it still looks very American but the badge is all wrong so American wannabes will not buy it nor will Lancia fans as it is neither elegant nor sporty as a Lancia should be. In my opinion it is rather vulgar as Lancia.

    The saddest part is all the other current Lancias are neither elegant nor sporty as well.

  • avatar

    My friend’s Dodge Magnum surf wagon doesn’t have any rust after 6 years. That’s no way to build a Lancia.

  • avatar

    Strangely… the sheetmetal is more convincing as a Lancia than as the 300C. The new design just isn’t as distinctive as the previous one… it’s lost some of that “Baby Rolls” look for something more European/Cosmopolitan.

    Shame. The Lancia Thema has the chance to finally get a V8, again… and this time connected to the rear wheels… just in time for the worst economic climate in Italy in a long time…

    • 0 avatar

      The new 300 reminds me of a freshened W140 Mercedes S-Class – which is a good thing. I would even say that the bottom of the headlight shape is reminiscent of the headlight wipers found on the W140.

  • avatar

    As an Alfista, I look at Lancia and think that it could be worse.

  • avatar

    Both Lancia and Chrysler are (deservedly) dead brands in Europe.

    Over the years, FIAT did everything possible to ruin Lancia, same did Chrysler. Now they are left without a proper dealership/service infrastructure.

    There are some Jeep specialists, but why should they invest in fancy 300Cs? There are some Lancia specialists here, but why should they invest? The standard FIAT outlet is in the same situation, as they would be overwhelmed to serve new customers with totally different cars. OK, they theoretically would have a chance to combine Chrysler/Jeep/FIAT sales and services. But…

    So, let’s wait and see. This certainly will take some time.

  • avatar

    And how long before the new “251hp” model is launched which is mechanically identical except the ECU has been reworked not to fully open the throttle flap at WOT?

    • 0 avatar

      So, true. A while ago taxation in Brazil was by hp (now it’s by displacement). IIRC, the gov at one point lowered the limit. Both Fiat and GM had good selling cars hit. Fiat almost immediately came out with a next year model car magically respecting the new limit. GM? They just reclared they had retuned their engine that now officially produced 107.5hp when the limit was set at 108 hp. (Numbers tentative).

      Wow. 0.5. Half a horse. And it paid a bunch of less taxes!

  • avatar

    Seems like Lancia is confused about what it’s supposed to stand for. I don’t think they’ve exactly been tearing up the sales charts in a while.

  • avatar

    Chrysler is a dead brand in Europe ? What is Fiat in the U.S. ?
    Both can change for the better, I believe. And will.

  • avatar


    Lancia Voyager
    Italy 374
    rest of Europe 995

    Lancia Thema
    Italy 208
    rest of Europe 272

  • avatar

    Dangit, I thought I’d seen a bunch of these already, during a few days in Rome in February — only the headlights and grille looked all wrong in the pic above: “Wait, wasn’t that much more Lacia-fied?”

    Oh, so those were Thesises? Wha’evah… that I saw. Didn’t even know that existed until someone mentioned it up-thread.

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