Geneva 2016 Posted Missing – Lancia

Obituaries are probably premature, but has Lancia’s traditional Geneva presence been bulldozed in the Giulia frenzy?

Lancia IAA Photo autovia-media
2016 Lancia Ypsilon at Geneva

Lancia was not on the Geneva exhibitors list, but I fully expected a few Ypsilons to show their fresh new face on a small, but rather stylish, stand in some enclave of Sergio’s Palexpo empire. It happened at Frankfurt, but not in Geneva – the traditional Lancia space was occupied by Abarth instead, with a rather jolly display of 124 Spiders and a 695 Biposto.

Lancia IAA Photo autovia-media (2)
2016 Lancia Ypsilon at Geneva

Billions of Euros are being invested in Alfa Romeo, Lancia’s demise at end of the current Ypsilon’s model cycle has been widely predicted, but the numbers, courtesy of Left-Lane, go some way to explaining the venerable Torinese marque’s durability:

Lancia European sales 2015: 61,652 (0.44%)
Alfa Romeo European sales 2015: 56,688 (0.40%)

FCA say that they expect worldwide Alfa Romeo sales for 2015 to be around 65,000. So around 8000 cars – expensively developed MiTos, Giuliettas, and 4Cs were sold outside Europe.

I rather like the Ypsilon; it’s a latter-day Ardea to the Delta’s Aprilia. True Lancisti will already be baying for my blood, but let’s not forget that before the Chrysler adventure, Lancia’s revival was Sergio’s big pet project, and the Tipo 844 Delta its embodiment. That car should have done far better, but the grand-chick of the White Hen, shaped in the Delta’s image, and built on a stretched Panda platform, has largely redressed the balance.

Delta production ended in 2014, the numbers are clouded by rebadged Chryslers, which no longer pollute the brand, but the last three years’ sales numbers offer encouragement, as does the Ypsilon’s second place in the Italian top ten in January 2016:

2013: 71,872
2014: 69,835
2015: 61,652

Will Lancia be allowed to wither and die? Anyone’s guess given Sergio’s capricious approach to product planning, but the numbers suggest that he needs to look again at what Lancia is doing right, and what it can do for FCA.

10 thoughts on “Geneva 2016 Posted Missing – Lancia”

  1. And where was Cadillac? Very strange to see all Opels crammed in a relatively small space, but at the same time a huge Chevrolet stand with at least 10 Camaro’s and Corvette’s. GM absurdity…

  2. The enormous Chevrolet stand was one of the big Geneva mysteries. I’d reckon it was as big as Opel / Vauxhall’s and bigger than the neighbouring Hyundai stand. In the past it made more sense, with the Korean Chevrolets and a Cadillac presence.

    I’d guess that GM don’t want to give away any of their Palexpo acreage.

    We spoke to a GM high-up about the return of Cadillac to Europe, and were told that it will happen when they have right cars and the engines and the right engines. As to when, it’s even less certain than the Guilia on-sale date.

    1. That’s a condition that needs defining: what are the right cars? The right car includes the right engine, I assume.
      They may as well have had an Oldsmobile stand.

    2. After a 10 year experiment, we can conclude: there is no scenario where Europeans will buy cars from Cadillac in large quantity. Even if the cars are good, the name recognition & dealer network & model range & pricing aren’t.

      The only cars that Cadillac can possibly sell profitably in Europe are a very good Rolls-Royce type limousine and an improved Escalade.

      If GM wants to be premium in Europe, they should consider taking Opel upmarket or – just a suggestion – take that phone call from Sergio.

    3. It’s more like 20 years. The Seville made an appearance for a while and was ridiculed for its torque steer, thirst and detailing. What makes Cadillac so worthwhile makes them unacceptable in Europe. Opel has been trying on and off since 1976 to move upmarket. They can hire the same engineering skill as BMW et cetera but management stymies the decisions needed to make the necessary changes. That said, their large cars aren’t noticeably inferior to similarly priced cars from their prestige peers. They need a bigger flagship than the Insignia though I doubt it’d change people’s perceptions.

  3. I saw a Cadillac BLS in London recently – a rebodied 9-3 (a rebodied Vectra) in RHD with a diesel engine. Presumably that was the ‘right kind of car’ for Europe, but Cadillac lost faith very quickly. Ironically, the ATS copies the European format for a compact luxury car but is not sold in Europe.

    As for the Ypsilon, it is essentially a 5 door 500 is it not? Clearly there is demand for such a thing. I’m not sure Lancia has anything left to offer, sadly.

    1. The Ypsilon could also be categorised as a more soignée Panda with the added benefit of an extra 90mm of wheelbase. Either way, the numbers suggest there’s a market for the thing – I’d love to know who it comprises.

      For those who want a five door 500, there’s the 500X – better value than the smaller 500, but without the charm. Would a 5 door 500 on the longer Ypsilon platform have worked? Or even a more spacious 3 door?

      It’s not a new dilemma. In Giacosa’s book there are drawings from August 1954 of a longer (by 90mm) Nuova 500, with room for four adults. The idea was dropped as it was thought that “it might damage sales of the 600”.

    2. A few weeks ago I was following a BLS in traffic and another one came along going in the other direction. If no-one else was keeping their eyes peeled, I might be the only person in London, or the UK, or the World to have witnessed such a thing. I was reminded of Rover’s notorious 600 advertisement.

  4. Good point about the Saabillac. I remember reading about it with disbelief in early 2005, as the guttering candle of MG Rover was barely alight, and thinking that the sheet metal alterations made to turn the 9-3 into the BLS would have been beyond the wildest dreams of sorry MGR. More pertinently, the money could have been better used to give the 9-3 a facelift, or broaden the model range.

    Of course that would have done nothing for GM’s plans for Cadillac in Europe. According to TTAC, 7365 BLSs were produced in its four year production life. According to me, most of these were to be had at cracking discounts, to the point that I briefly considered one as an eccentric purchase.

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