What do I know about animal husbandry anyway?
There surely comes a point in proceedings where one simply has to bow to certain ineffable truths and admit to the error of one’s ways. For some years now I have been calling (futilely I might add) upon its maker to do the decent thing and euthanise the Lancia Ypsilon, in the earnest, if mistaken belief that it would be better for all concerned if the hapless Shield and Flag was allowed to expire with at least a shred of decency.
But there are other forms of dignity in life, amongst which is sheer stubborn refusal in the face of seemingly insuperable odds. Because dear reader, anno 2021, the Tychy White Hen is not only marking its first decade as currently constituted, but also and frankly, nobody is more surprised than I, it has this week become the beneficiary of another quite unexpected lease of life.
Lancia’s new masters, the impenetrably named Stellantis is in the midst of rolling out its strategy for a brand portfolio, the size of which that would boggle the mind of many a lesser CEO. What is becoming apparent however, is that the team which Chief Executive, Carlos Tavares has drawn together has been working on execution for some time – the sudden abundance of product coming on stream since the merger has been formalised being illustrative of that.
What, if any longer-term plans for brand-Lancia there might be amid all of this activity continues to be shrouded in mist – the only relative clarity being the statement that new carmaking giant allegedly has no current plans to kill off any of its nameplates.
Certainly in the case of the Ypsilon, one can see why that might be the case. Tracking sales since its 2011 introduction, what one sees is an almost metronomic consistency of purpose; the Lancia-branded model selling steadily year-on-year with only minor variations in volume. Even last year, in Covid-ravaged Italy, (its sole territory) total 2020 sales came to 43,076, which given the state of the Italian car market could be characterised as practically miraculous.
Why kill off a car which sells in worthwhile numbers, and maintains a retinue of customers who would perhaps struggle to obtain an equally attractive alternative? Because despite attempts to reposition the Fiat 500 to expand into this section of the market, there appears to remain a cohort which not only is impervious to the Fiat’s retro appeal, but remains doggedly attached to the lure of the henhouse.
So has C. Tavares realised that there is life in the old bird yet? This week’s announcement of the Ypsilon’s latest facelift suggests that indeed he might. Not that it amounts to a great deal more than a new front facia, incorporating a redesigned (and slightly smaller) grille and revised headlamp units, while inside a 7″ infotainment screen now sits somewhat incongruously, seemingly in the sightline of the (central) instrument binnacle.
Technically, there is little change to the two combustion engine choices – a 1.2-litre unit that produces 68 bhp and 75 lb/ft of torque, or a 0.9-litre engine with 84 bhp and 107 lb/ft. A hybrid incorporating a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery was also added to the range last year, producing 69 hp (51 kW / 70 PS) and 68 lb-ft (92 Nm) of torque, which remains on offer.
Having prophesised the demise of the Ypsilon so many times over the past six years or so, not only has it become gnawingly repetitive, but I must concede, utterly wrong. I simply hadn’t considered how resilient the little Lancia would prove to be. Furthermore, in the intervening time, its charm, its lack of visual aggression and its defiant refusal to bow to the inevitable has precipitated a fundamental shift in sentiment.
But having recanted, I am no longer prepared to make any prophesies about brand-Lancia’s fortunes. Because quite frankly on this (and most other subjects), I am clearly quite clueless.
But to return to the point about bowing to certain ineffable truths and admitting the error of one’s ways, maybe it’s time to drop the somewhat tiresome poultry metaphors? Perhaps – because the one thing we can categorically state when it comes to the Ypsilon is that the last Lancia standing is no Spent Hen.
 The latest intelligence from Automotive News Europe suggests that Stellantis is preparing a shared strategy of “specific premium modules, powertrains and features” across its upmarket brands, which is said to encompass Alfa Romeo, DS Auto and Lancia. Make of that what you will…
 It is said that within the Roman Catholic faith three miracles are considered a prerequisite for sainthood. Well, I suppose it’s a start.