Lancia Lives

In a way, so to speak. If you lived in Italy you could be forgiven for thinking Lancia were still popular.

Lancia Musa in Naples
Lancia Musa in Naples

Here, south of Naples, Lancias outnumber Fords. There are very few Fords and Renaults, not even small ones such as Twingos. The first thing I did when stepping out of the airport was to photograph a Lancia Musa “Fifth Avenue” which had button-pleated beige leather seating.

Lancia Delta

The Ypsilon is ubiquitous and Fiat would be mad to stop making them. They get people to pony up 20% extra for a Fiat Panda. Even the Delta II is common enough and always white. It has aged well too and is also a profitable way to sell what is probably (will check) a stretched Bravo. Lybra’s are represented by estates as in the rest of Europe. I take that to mean nobody much liked the saloon. I’ve seen only one here. That’s the one I like best.

2003-2011 Lancia Ypsilon
2003-2011 Lancia Ypsilon

The highlight yesterday came in the form of a dusty, black Thesis, parked outside a restaurant. Black suits it, hiding the bland sides and accenting the lamps and grille.

image

This brings to about 20 the number of times I have seen one. It’s the Fiat 130 of our times.

2007 Lancia Delta
2007 Lancia Delta

So, what is it about middle-market luxury that endears it to the home market but is poison when exported? Or why did Italy take to Rover and support Lancia when everyone else shunned them? And Sweden is unique in having a dominant brand that is pure middle market (and once had two). France doesn’t really have a corresponding brand at all; Buick is struggling in the US and soon will be a set of CUVs if the trend continues.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

9 thoughts on “Lancia Lives”

  1. The Lancia Delta is indeed a Fiat Bravo with an extra 10 cm of wheelbase. This goes into providing fairly good rear legroom if you slide the rear seats back. Otherwise it is pretty similar to drive – a little more grip due to the absurdly wide, low profile tyres and all the same design faults, unrectified in typical Fiat style over its entire lifespan; I also owned a Bravo before my current Delta so I know. The Musa is simply a Fiat Idea with added plushness and as opined in a previous column, seems suited to Italian city dwellers who want a car that is spacious, well equipped and luxurious but can fit down tight streets and park easily. As for the Ypsilon, the version sold in the UK as a Chrysler was blighted by a poor range of engines; the feeble 1.2 petrol, the thirsty and rough twinair or the expensive and noisy diesel. I would have bought one if they’d offered the 1.4 petrol with 100bhp. And yes, it was also blighted, like the Delta by having Chrysler badges slapped all over it.

  2. I think Lancia should not be labeled “middle luxury”. The real values of the brand were quality engineering and refined technology. “Luxury” was a consequence of that. Adding some posh materials or odd styling won’t do. The prevailing strategy inside FCA consisting of Alfa=sporty and Lancia=luxury was simplistic and alienating. Lancia could have been positioned instead as a technological brand focused on introducing hybrids, electrification or autonomous driving, alla Tesla. There’s no other brand on the FCA empire to better assign that mission.

    1. I will make the distinction between what Lancia is and what it should be. As it is, it’s middle luxury. Your well-articulated description of an alternative is very clear and agrees with my idea (and, I think Eoin’s) that Lancia should be modern as opposed to Alfa’s quite conservative vision of sporty. I’d love Lancia to be inspired by modern industrial design, made very well and fitted with innovative technology. That way Alfa and Lancia don’t compete with each other and Lancia doesn’t have to be a car for ladies who lunch or “older drivers”. Note: I quite like the Lancias that were light luxury. But not enough people do.

  3. Though unlikely to happen would rather Lancia be a sort of middle-tier durable sporty luxury marque that unlike Alfa Romeo (with its stylish yet conservative definition of sporty) is not afraid to get dirty as a nod to its rallying heritage, akin in some respects to a more luxurious Subaru yet with more heritage (or even to SAAB pre-GM).

    1. Hi Bob: isn’t definition likely to lead to Lancia cannibalising Alfa sales or vice versa? I think the Lancia rallying muddied the waters and led Lancia to be seen as a sports car maker when Alfa (in the same stable) occupied that territory? I see the markets divided into economy, sports and luxury. In one group cars should not be in overlapping categories. Thus FCA could have Fiat in economy, Alfa in sporting and Lancia oriented towards *modern* luxury.

  4. Yes! Lancia lives in Italy and is not a dead brand. In the rest of Europe it is fainting away as there is no follow up on models. A brand needs a lot of marketing money and effort for market penetration. Since Alfa and especially Fiat are brands with better propositions abroad they need to be helped first. Lancia? Maybe if Fiat can succeed in gaining more market share for their (especially nowadays) trustworthy and really good and very solid cars like the fiat 500, 500X, Panda they might bring back Lancia. The chance is small though. Fiat first needs to have a few successful years

  5. Hello Richard

    While it may seem it would lead to Lancia cannibalizing Alfa sales on the surface, It boils down to whether any Alfa owner would be willing to treat their car in the same way a owner of a Subaru Impreza WRX (or a Lancia Delta Integrale) – essentially a marque that is both sporty and rugged at the same time, qualities which one would not associate with Alfa Romeo.

    Lancia as a luxury marque since the early/mid-1990s has not really been served well when it suddenly abandoned its hard-fought motorsport credibility, the question is whether FCA is still capable of building decent A to C/D-Segment cars and engines that outperform rivals from Ford, Renault and the VW group.

    1. That’s point about Lancia as a rugged, well-made sports car in the mould of Lancia is original. That said, in these days of large car conglomerates, I feel the distinction must be clearer. That’s why I leave Alfa clearly sporty but classically styled while I propose Lancia is deliberately modern, comfortable and focused on high-tech (I’ve adopted that good proposal) so that whether you’re an Alfa or Lancia buyer there’s a youthful peg to hang your hat on (sportiness or avant-garde). In terms of the competition, Lancia would possibly attract buyers from Toyota, Lexus and Audi. Alfa might compete with BMW and Jaguar. Lancia would also attract disaffected Saab and Citroen buyers. The main point is sharply divided market sectors, no shared body-formats and no overlapping price points. Lancias would always cost a bit more than an Alfa in base-model trim.

  6. A Lancia Ypsilon with 5 doors, climatisation and metallic-paint costs in Italy 9.750 € . probably that is the reason for the strong sales of the Ypsilon in Italy.

    The revival of the Fiat 500 (available in some really nice interior trims) was the beginning of the last chapter of Lancia´s agony.

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