Our good friends at Autocar have reported that Chrysler is going to give up and flee the UK market. This will disappoint only those Lancia fans who had a brief chance to buy the Delta and Ypsilon.
I was entirely unaware or had forgotten that Chrysler were selling the Delta in the UK and Ireland. There is one used Delta in stock in the UK, by the way. Sales of Chryslers were never impressive, 3000 in a good year. The cost of preparing these cars for RHD production must have meant they lost money on each of these unless they had huge success in some RHD market of which I was not aware… Japan? New Zealand?
I looked at the Irish home page for Chrysler and was intrigued. Technically it is possible there is an Irish-registered Chrysler Delta out there somewhere and indeed there is. See below. While the Chrysler spokesman says the reason for the decision to cancel sales was that the cars were not fuel efficient enough, he can only really have meant the Town & Country MPV and 300 C.
These were a “genuine” Chryslers designed for the US and not rebadged Lancias. Having said that, I don’t believe fuel economy was an issue even for those two cars. I am not saying the fuel figures were good but that that was not the real reason nobody wanted them. Lots of cars with atrocious fuel
economy still get sold. Some of those people indifferent to fuel consumption might have looked to Chrysler instead of, say, Audi with their 4.2 litre V6s, for example. The real reason is that Chryslancia lacked a USP and a coherent character. What was anyone looking for when they went into a Chrysler showroom? All the measurable characteristics of these cars were matched by someone else, even the iffy fuel consumption. The brand stood for nothing and the one thing they could have sold, Lancia-ness, was concealed under a thin veneer of Detroit badging.
This strange venture of selling Lancias rebadged as Chrysers in the UK and Ireland must be one of the most unlikely bits of brand-contamination ever undertaken. It is in a small set where maybe the Saabaru also lives – was that a Subaru sold as Saab or vice versa? At a pinch there was the Pontiac Montana sold as a Chevrolet in the Europe. And that’s all I can think of off hand.
For weirdness’ sake, these cars ought to have been sold as Lancias in Ireland, in a parallel situation to GM badging Vauxhalls as Opels for the ROI, making Ireland Opel’s only RHD drive market. Imagine if they had sold the Chryslers as Lancias. Lucky Lancia fans in Ireland, of which there are a few (twenty), could claim really special bragging rights: having examples of the handful of right-hand-drive Lancias made after 1993.
I had a quick look. As of today there are two Chrysler Deltas on sale in Ireland, from €15,000. These must be among the rarest of orphan brands. It’s a tribute to Fiat that while they struggle in other areas, they have found a unique skill in creating orphan brands which nobody really can match, barring GM’s mass brand cull of the last decade which killed off Pontiac, Saturn and Oldsmobile.
But they didn’t manage to do it with such élan as FCA. GM just stopped the production of these cars. But Fiat added such complication: taking a dying brand and clothing it in the trappings of an unloved marque with zero equity and then attempting to sell it in a limited market with uncompetitive products. They really set the bar high for marketing cock-ups. Bravo!
[Here is an Irish review of the Delta. It’s a bit coarsely written.]