A photoseries for Sunday: 2002-2009 Lancia Thesis

When the Thesis debuted, Lancia was at pains to present it as a sophisticated choice.

All images: The author
All images: The author

The PR offensive included a presence at a symphony music festival in St Moritz, and a range of accessories produced by Zegna and Longines amongst others. Fourteen years on, this example stands as a stark reminder that depreciation is no respecter of brand strategies or PR bumf.


One tends to imagine that whoever put together the original promotional strategy for the Thesis failed to recognise, much less emphasise, its evidently-excellent qualities as a commercial vehicle. Given the model’s lifetime sales (just 16,000 over seven years), it seems clear that Lancia missed a trick in ignoring this lucrative market segment.

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Typical Fiat attention to detail can be seen in the differing hubcap emblems. These are almost certainly factory-spec.

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Admittedly, this example – spotted a couple of months ago in one of Milan’s less salubrious quarters – is somewhat atypical. For the most part, when one does see a Thesis nowadays, they tend to be quite well-kept. Perhaps it was recognized by its owners, even when new, as Lancia’s last hurrah. An obscure corner awaits at Auto Italia 2027.

10 thoughts on “A photoseries for Sunday: 2002-2009 Lancia Thesis”

  1. The way the curve of the dash follows that of the rim of the bucket suggests that, despite the hubris of the St Moritz launch, at least someone at Lancia had their feet firmly planted on reality.

  2. My guess is that the owner replaced a wheel at some point.
    It’s true most example of a Thesis I see are well-preserved. There’s likely a persistent demographic who want a car like this and who aren’t happy with E-classes or Volvos such as the S80. Also likely is that unless there are unfixable electronic problems the Thesis will be a future classic, with these articles being among many wistful peaens to what might have been.
    Stradale: can you elucidate further on the Zegna accessories? Luggage? Scarves?
    The lamp photo shows what a distinctive design the Thesis is. You couldn’t mistake it for anything else.

    1. According to Lancia, it included silk and cashmere clothing, as well as:

      “…Aurora pens, a Longines mechanical clock, [and] bags and belts created using the best Italian craft leatherworking tradition.”

      In many ways I think of this as far more of a ‘proper Lancia’ than just about anything since the Gamma, at least in terms of its uniqueness relative to other cars in the Fiat Group. The platform was derived from the 166 but heavily revised, especially the front suspension, and although it is irrational (read nonsensical), my mind regards Fiat’s modular five-cylinders as inherently ‘Lancia motors’.

      (Monstrously useless factoid of the week – Maserati nicked the Thesis’ door mirrors for the Quattroporte. They then swapped them at facelift time for 159 units.)

      For the car’s reputation if nothing else, it’s probably just as well they didn’t get around to installing a Northstar V8, as was rumoured at the time. Or the Isuzu V6 diesel, come to that.

      I like the single piece of wood that runs the width of the dash. It announces its presence, but unobtrusively so; it also serves a purpose in hiding the join between the two colours where it bisects the dash. I enjoy wood in a car interior, but I prefer when it is used discriminately (as opposed to Rover’s infamous ‘fillets’).

    2. Stradale, thanks a lot for the monstrously useless factoid – I’d always been wondering where else I’d seen the Quattroporte V/Scaglietti’s door mirrors. Now I know!

  3. Interesting to read about the Northstar engined Thesis idea. The fruits of the GM/Fiat era were usually deeply dull – diesel engines and mediocre shared platforms. A “Lancillac” sounds oddly appealing.

    I’m put in mind of the story that Peugeot were negotiating with Audi for a supply of their V8 engine for top-end 607s. Nothing came of it – like the Ford 260-engined Humbers all over again…

    Which reminds me – there was a well-specced first generation Audi V8 in my neighbourhood which always had paint-spattered ladders on the roof, and an interior full of decorator’s impedimenta. It coped well with this “commercial” use for at least ten years, but has recently been replaced by a Fiat Sedici.

  4. Chris Bangle made a few complimentary comments regarding the Thesis back in the day – he said something along the lines that Mike Robinson did a very good job creating a limousine based on a less-than-ideal FWD platform. The sole reason for this could be that Robinson and Bangle are mates, but I’d like to believe that it wasn’t intended as the kind of backhanded compliment as which some people would probably interpret such a statement.

  5. Yes, a likeable car. Spent some time in Rome during the summer of 2005 and there were quite a few of them about – they looked rather fine.

  6. A really thoughtful and thought provoking design – I love those rear lights and the interior is very coherent and plush. Sad to see one like this …

    1. The Thesis is a lovely car: I feel that when Robinson said people would be looking for excuses not to buy it he was right. He gave them one though. And it really need not have been so. The Thesis needed 10 mm off the roof and 30 added in length. Essentially the car is *just* noticeably too tall or short.

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