It’s now autumn, a time to reflect. Recently, DTW has been driving Lancias and we have discussed the decline of this once noble marque. It is not the only brand to have faded away.
In the diagram I have marked the timelines of two other defunct brands: Rover and Saab. Rover closed in 2005 and Saab shut up shop in 2011. You’ll notice that while Rover had no new models in the Phoenix years (I don’t count the MG versions), Saab had new product in the pipeline right until the last minute. Lancia’s demise is more muddled.
First, the badge engineering of Fiat cars increased and then swapped around 2011 to the relabelling of Chryslers. The Lybra (1998) and Thesis (2002) count as the last proper Lancias. The Delta (2008) is a superficially restyled Bravo but nowhere near the quality of the 1998 Lybra. The latest Ypsilon is a reworked Fiat 500. As of 2014 FCA gave up rebadging Chrysler (I left one out – which?). And perhaps Alfa Romeo could be added to this chart…
To this litany of decline, I could add Citroen. The Citroen C6 ran from 2005 to 2012, a genuine if patchy attempt to sell a proper, large Citroen. And from 2003 to 2008 Opel tried to sell the Signum as an alternative to the Opel Omega. Lastly, between 2002 and 2009 Renault sold a few Vel Satises.
So,’08, ’09 and ’12 were the years those three firms gave up on traditional large cars while the others petered out between 2005 and 2011 (Lancia staggers on with the Ypsilon and their own proper cars ceased between 2009 and 2014). Now let’s dig out an old chart showing the way BMW extended down the price range into the lower reaches where Ford and Peugeot used to sell their larger cars:
This shows the change in BMW’s range since 1995. The pairs of bars represent 1995 and 2016 for BMW, Ford and Peugeot. Notice how Ford and Peugeot’s price range and therefore market coverage declined as BMW expanded down into the sub-30K area. BMW always had a car selling for the price of a Granada or 60- series but became better at selling them too.
Not all of the blame for Rover, Lancia and Saab’s decline is to be laid at BMW’s feet; it is just one of three firms (Audi and Mercedes) who ate into the middle market. Perhaps Skoda, Hyundai and Kia too have taken their share of sales in the time period in question, which probably calls for another chart.
To summarise, the expansion of other brands has been at the expense of Rover, Saab and Lancia who, at the same time, didn’t really know how to respond to the competition. Of the three, Saab put up the bravest fight. Lancia had a final spasm with the Delta and Rover staggered on with old models for almost six years. In the times since, 2010, Citroen have tried to reinvent themselves with the DS line and Opel have completely replaced their range with ever-higher quality cars only to be overtaken by GM’s careless indifference.