Ah well. From Lancia Aurelia, Florida and Gamma to Trevi, Lybra and the rebadged Chryslers and on to this, the Elle edition Ypsilon. Bravo, FCA.
Lancia describes the Elle as follows: “The ultimate expression of Lancia elegance, and proof of the brand’s continuous pursuit of innovative, contemporary new shapes, the new Ypsilon ELLE proposes exquisite paint colors, materials, fabrics and trims that reflect the model’s passion for fashion.”
The Elle is the ultimate expression of Lancia elegance they say. At least the word is being used in its proper sense of being final. The rest is purest marketing language. If there was such a thing as a crime against automotive history, this has to be ready to be indicted for it.
As well as the dusky pink paint which resembles that used on certain editions of the Lincoln Town Car, the Ypsilon has a wide range of engines :”the 69 hp 1.2 Fire EVO II, the 85 hp 0.9 TwinAir in combination with manual or robotised gearbox, the 95 hp 1.3 turbodiesel MultiJet II diesel and the 80 HP 0.9 Turbo TwinAir methane engine options” writes Autoevolution.
What they could have done was kept Lancia alive as a really nice small car. I think this actually sells quite well. It’s not what I had in mind for Lancia. With some creativity this could have been a pleasant little packet of luxury motoring. Maybe if it went well, Lancia could have built up into a parallel range of small cars to complement Fiat’s offerings. Alas, FCA has a very determinedly unimaginative management who failed to see what could have been done with Lancia as a brand to parallel Alfa Romeo.
FCA aren’t shouting about this car or their presence at Geneva this year. But I did eventually find out what Lancia had to show. Two special editions of the Ypsilon, which is 30 years old this year. Happy birthday. Not many more left now…
14 thoughts on “Last Gasp – Lancia Ypsilon “Elle””
“the Ypsilon, which is 30 years old this year”
That’s if you start the clock with the Y10, right?
If you look back at times when marketing folk thought they’d identified a need to produce cars targeted specifically at women, by employing certain colours, fabrics and a cute name, most women have found that a bit of a turn off. But I guess Lancia is just about picking up crumbs these days, so if a few Legally Blonde wannabes fall for it, it was probably worth getting that 100 litres of paint mixed.
Is this related to the Ford Granada Elle that Myles Gorfe writes about on these pages?
Lancia count the Y as part of this lineage.
In 1997 Lancia sold 130,000 Ypsilons. Last year they sold about 60,000 of them, according to Matt´s Left Lane (http://left-lane.com/european-car-sales-data/lancia/lancia-ypsilon/).
That´s a big drop but 60,000 is still quite a lot. I think they´d be able to sell more of those with some tweaks to the driving dynamics. As ever FCA are a dumb as a door and refuse to see the potential in this ember of Lancia´s ruins. The next Lancia Y could easily be spun off the 500 platform. There is a market for cushy, luxxy small cars and always will be. I´d say that Lancia could always support a line of three cars aimed specifically at the Ghia-type customer. These people are a constant of the car market. I´d specifically make sure the two other cars were saloons and I´d use colour and trim options as the selling point. What´s Mini built on? Colour and trim options and a bit of engineering. Currently this model is applied to yoof cars but I think there is a space for mature buyers who want something else other than a Mondeo or 3-series with brown leather.
The current Ypsilon is based on the 500 platform. In fact, virtually everything now is, and given that they got it virtually paid for by Ford, it’s costing them almost nothing. FCA are missing a trick here. The market for small, chic, luxuriously trimmed small cars is a healthy one. PSA do well with the ghastly DS3, and Opel have exceeded expectations for the equally ungainly Adam for instance. The market isn’t confined to lady fashionista’s either. Plenty of city dwellers would buy something small if it provided a bigger car feel and offered similar equipment. The Ypsilon’s problem, (well one of them anyway), is that there is not enough differentiation between it and the 500. The Fiat nails the youth market and has cute coming out of its ears. The Lancia? A bit odd looking. 5-doors for no apparent reason. Offering a virtually identical driving experience. Now if they had the wit to have based it on the Punto and styled it along the lines of the Stilnovo concept, (instead of building the Mito), the story may well have been rather different.
I think it was GM not Ford who gave Fiat a pile of cash so they would stop bothering them.
But Ford paid for the Ka/500-platform?
Possibly – I hadn’t thought about that.
“I think they´d be able to sell more of those with some tweaks to the driving dynamics. As ever FCA are a dumb as a door and refuse to see the potential in this ember of Lancia´s ruins.”
The Y10 discussion around a consistent model range reminds me that a couple of years ago there were some spy shots in Quattroruote of some supposed Ypsilon ‘HF’ prototypes running around Turin – big wheels, dropped ride height, 500 Abarth exhaust tips, and the like. I asked a mate of mine at Magneti Marelli what the story was. He said it was basically an after-hours project by some engineers – basically 500 Abarth esseesse running gear plumbed underneath a couple of Y shells. Reportedly, it was a riot. Management wasn’t interested because it didn’t “fit the brand image,” whatever they envisage that to be these days. It is the defining feature of an ultraconservative ethos when one cannot imagine that an image can be refreshed, renewed or altered.
The sad thing here is, the image has alreday been altered – from a serious carmaker with a strong engineering ethos and sporting ambitions to a fashion brand jazzing up some simple Fiats with lipstick and hair spray.
I didn´t know that about the Y. All one can do is shake one´s head in disbelief that they can´t see a case for Lancia. One day I am going to find a car executive and get their side of the story as regards why they pay so little attention to dynamics. We might sneer at the US land yachts of the 60s and 70s but to a large extent the same indifference to dynamics (they might be about comfort or handling or a balance) is in evidence now. And yes, quite right Eoin: there are a lot of cars chasing the boutique end so Lancia makes sense as an entrant. Some people don´t want a Fiat, Ford or Opel. All those cars are running shoe-styled.
StE: Correct about the pay off. Presumably FCA have not got the money to develop a Punto-sized car. The Punto platform is very old now. Does anyone buy them?
The Punto is getting on for ten years old now, but bear in mind the Corsa upon which it is based – heavily facelifted and apparently good for another 6-years on the (driving) school run. The Corsa platform that underpins the Punto was part of the ‘never darken our door again’ severance package Marchionne negotiated in 2006 or so. Point being that if GM can spin a broadly competitive contender from it, surely Fiat could too. As to whether anyone buys the Punto now, it appears that around 87,000 found homes last year across Europe – mostly I would imagine in Italy. That’s a tiny fraction of what the Punto used to sell, so what the hell happened? It was never a bad looking car – (dodgy facelifts aside) and now looks almost restrained next to some of its rivals. As far as I know it wasn’t an ownership disaster either.
To the best of my knowledge Sergio got the 500 platform costs written off as part of the deal with Ford to co-produce the KA. I sat in an Ypsilon at a motor show a year or so back. It wasn’t a particularly memorable experience. Like the current DS models, it all felt very ‘never mind the cheapness, feel the metal-look plastic’. Instead of what could have been a nice alternative upscale small car, FCA have produced a sort of contemporary Italian Allegro VdP in miniature.
Ford tied up with Fiat for the Nuova 500 and so helped pay for that. Ford got the Ka out of that deal. And GM tied up with Fiat to produce the platform of the Opel Corsa and the Fiat Punto. At the same time, GM ran off when they saw the trouble they were getting into and paid Fiat a goodbye fee to end whatever contracts had been agreed upon. Fiat did quite well out of all that. I think GM´s money saved their bacon.