An Easter treat from Lancia.
Faith: (n) “A strong or unshakable belief in something, especially without proof or evidence”.
For the true believer, faith represents certainty, a confidence which strengthens and sustains through strife and adversity. Closely aligned with hope, in the absence of either quality, the penitent would find it almost impossible to abide.
It is also a word closely associated with the house of Lancia, for to be a Lancista is truly to believe. For observants, fealty to the historic and storied nameplate has carried with it an element of blind faith — a certainty that in the face of all known logic, not to mention the testimony of their own eyes, that somehow, the Turin-based carmaker would return from its latter-day revenant state to life and to light. Hope, on the other hand, has been in considerably shorter supply.
When it was announced in 2021 that Stellantis, under the stewardship of Carlos Tavares was prepared to offer Lancia a lifeline, those of a more jaded bent could perhaps be forgiven for closely managing their expectations. For these reasons and several others, there was a distinct element of the miraculous to last weekend’s announcement of Lancia’s PU+RA HPE concept.
There was also an element of symmetry to Lancia’s timing, coming as it did less than a week after Easter, the feast (for those of the Christian faith) of the resurrection.
As automotive statements of intent go, this has to be amongst the most ambitious seen in years and it should be stated, amongst the most finely wrought — far more so than even the most optimistic of observers (or fervent Lancistas) could have envisaged. Even allowing for the concept’s close-coupled 2+2 format, Pu+Ra HPE’s strikingly modernist appearance, to say nothing of its formal and detail design excellence marks not simply the first serious examination of Lancia style in decades, but a potent manifesto for where Lancia CEO, Luca Napolitano and his Stellantis paymasters view the future for the marque.
Since the late 1970s, successive FIAT Auto executives have rationalised the Lancia nameplate into irrelevance and ultimately, under Sergio Marchionne’s purview, near-death. Pu+Ra HPE then suggests a serious intent to make amends, to return Lancia to its once eminent position. Closely related to a conceptual sculpture of the same name shown last November, the HPE concept is said to embody Lancia’s ‘Pure and Radical’ design philosophy, created under the direct supervision of European Stellantis design leader, Jean-Pierre Ploué.
Ploué, whose palmarés include distinguished tenures at both Renault and Citroën has taken a distinctly personal interest in Lancia’s rebirth, eschewing the appointment of a stand-alone Design Director for the marque, instead and quite unusually assuming the role himself. I asked Hamburg-based design critic, writer and commentator, Christopher Butt for his observations, both on Ploué’s unorthodox approach and for his take on Lancia’s new design manifesto.
“Ploué did not need to take responsibility for the reawakening of this once moribund brand. That he did so speaks of levels of personal ambition rare among seasoned group heads of design. He clearly wishes to prove something to himself, when it would have been temptingly easy to simply keep watch over the shoulders of his respective brand chief designers”.
With the exterior design of Pu+Ra HPE, Lancia’s designers seem at long last to have released themselves from the tyranny of heritage, the heel of history. “Over the past 20 years, Lancia has become a grille in search of a product. Therefore its absence is one of the boldest stylistic statements in recent history. Abandoning it speaks of a will to move the marque away completely from the sophistication tinsel it had become associated with”.
The mainstream auto press have of course leapt to play ‘spot the design reference’ and while there are clearly nods to Lancia’s past here, the HPE design is no pastiche. “Of course, there is the shadow of the Stratos looming over this approach, but it has been done in such a subtle, modernist, almost abstract way that I’d view it as a tribute to Lancia values, rather than a cheap trick to remind us of past glories.”
Let us not mince words here. In an automotive landscape increasingly bereft of grace, creativity or much in the way of genuine inspiration, Pu+Ra HPE stands as one of the most impressive design (re)interpretations in years, and speaks multitudes of both Napolitano and Ploué’s intent for this most emotive of marques. Because if the forthcoming production cars exhibit even a fraction of the flair and craft exhibited here, it will be possible to state with some conviction that Lancia truly has returned from the (un)dead.
But if the exterior design can be described as masterful, then the cabin must be characterised as truly inspired. Sustainability features highly. The door panels for instance are covered with a material made from 50% crushed marble waste and integrated into a recycled, waterproof fabric, while the seating is inspired by the design of the Beta HPE and seemingly created in conjunction with acclaimed Italian furniture designer, Cassina. The clever use of light and space, the innovative juxtaposition of materials, graphics and shapes and the sheer warmth and flair exhibited here speaks of the kind of ambience many feared lost forever from vehicle interiors.
“Despite the Cassina (marketing?) cooperation, the cabin still clearly belongs to the automotive domain. The potted plants, desks or decorative lamps suggestive of (autonomously driving) ‘homes on wheels’ are clearly absent. Yet, despite not pretending to be anything apart from a car, the HPE doesn’t go for a cold technical aesthetic, but a cosy modernism — with a hint of ’70s retro flair. I would argue that the strong Italianate flavour of the cabin wasn’t achieved despite, but because of the high percentage of French creatives involved — as outsiders often have a firmer grasp of a culture’s aesthetics than those inherently a part of it”.
What is therefore perhaps most striking about Pu+Ra HPE is this sense of thoroughness; a belief that each element has been fully thought through and intellectualised. As the normally phlegmatic and measured Mr. Butt observed with some relish, “To me, this translation of Italian/Mediterranean design values in a progressive fashion (rather than another retro exercise) is the Lancia’s greatest achievement. The HPE is far from flawless, but betrays an eagerness for creative exploration that is deeply Italian — and largely absent from car design right now. This is a proper reinvention we’re dealing with”.
Of course, all the usual provisos regarding the promise of concepts versus the often more watered-down reality must apply. This could prove to be, like so many before it, something of a false dawn for the Shield and the Flag. But now is not the moment for doubt — that can come later. Today we can simply admire the HPE as an article of faith, acknowledging the creativity it embodies and appreciating a reawakening which has occurred against almost insuperable odds. And for one brief moment perhaps, to truly Believe.
 This author included.
 The more prosaic rationale for the concept HPE’s timing was to coincide with the opening of Milan Design Week.
 “Starting with the new Ypsilon, our cars of the future will be inspired by the Lancia Pu+Ra HPE,” Napolitano confirmed last weekend, outlining to journalists that the new-generation Ypsilon, planned for launch next year is “basically ready”. This he said will be followed in 2026 by the Gamma saloon and Delta hatchback in 2028.
 Lancia defines its Pure and Radical design ‘language’ as follows: “The cars’ volumes are created from the intersection of elementary and iconic forms such as the circle and the triangle, combined with a few eclectic details”. While HPE once stood for High Performance Estate, it now translates as High Performance Electric. In a curious symmetry, HPE could also be said to stand for hope.
 In 2021 Ploué stated, “Lancia is an iconic brand, which will be restored to its central historical position in Europe, leveraging on its huge potential”. He went on to say in an interview with Lignes Auto, “We are taking back the DNA, the value, the codes and above all, no retro design. Lancia will always remain modern.”
 The man primarily responsible for the exterior design for Pu+Ra HPE is the talented Frédéric Duvernier, recently poached by Ploué from Vélizy. Citroën’s loss being very much Lancia’s gain.
 “Then there’s the format: a (seemingly) compact sports coupe, when the market would normally demand something tall and mighty to lead the way”. Christopher Butt.
 The Pu+Ra HPE interior design team was lead by Gianni Colonello.
 The materials used throughout are 70% recycled, and Lancia is targeting a figure of at least 50% recycled materials for its production cars.
 It certainly appears so for those on this side of the world; Stellantis having no current plans to re-introduce Lancia to the UK (or Ireland). Mind you, given the likely reaction of the British press, one can hardly blame them.
Sources: Media Stellantis/ Lignesauto.fr
Grateful thanks to Christopher Butt for his insights.
63 thoughts on “Promised You A Miracle”
I want to believe…
As a reminder to the original car
And the uncomfortable front seats with too short backrests and weird headrests
Actually, I’ve used these front seats in the past. A friend of mine owned a Beta HPE (his dad’s old car), and he’d given me a few rides while we were both in university. They weren’t bad at all, at least from a passenger’s perspective. In fact, they weren’t worse than the “bucket” seats of the Renault Clio II Phase II.
Of all the cars in Lancia’s back catalogue to refer to, I wouldn’t have picked the Beta HPE as being one. What an inspired choice. Those louvres could be a reference to the Stratos too.
The secret to an enduring brand identity is not to slavishly copy details from the past, but to re-interpret them for the present and future. The new ‘grille’ that has been reduced to those three lines is a perfect example, and perfect for a radiator-less electric future.
Naturally you question how much of this would make it to production, and the usual fear of great disappointment from a half-heartedly realised concept looms. However the shutline crimes and crease atrocities of today’s mainstream vehicles mean that the usual cry of ‘not a practical production possibility’ is no longer a valid excuse for not taking the risk.
Certainly I assume, indeed hope, that the louvre design on the rearwards glass doesn’t become a thing though, since no-one seems to care about panoramic visibility these days, who knows? But it does suggest a distinctive language, far more coherent than we’ve become used to of late, and if this inspires a production vehicle that would be fine.
I also suggest they keep the name. “I’ll book you in to the car park. What are you driving?” “A Pu+Ra HPE” “Great, can you spell that for me?”
I think it is a commendably clean and highly coherent design, apart from the vertical black bands behind the front wheel arches, which I find disruptive. However, what I really want to see is a modern interpretation of the Flavia / 2000 berlina.
Speaking of reinvention, how about this from MG?
Apart from the terrible name (‘Cyberster’) it looks like a welcome addtion to the much depleted ranks of small roadsters.
It’s relatively attractive, although it doesn’t seem to offer much in the way of stylistic surprise. But the name really needs to be changed.
As most automotive stylistic surprises these days seem to be of the “Oh, my God! 😲” variety, I’m happy to be unsurprised.
Negative Nelly warning! The Cyberster is, like many an electric reinvention of a marque, bigger (and particularly heavier) than it appears at 4.5 meters long and 1,850 to almost 2000 kilos. I really like the initiative but, having been burned by the Hyundai Ionia 5, I’ll reserve judgement for when it’s available.
Right, enough negativity: like most, I really want to believe and particularly hope. I share Christopher’s assessment that there is plenty to criticise about the HPE (and its name), but like him I very much appreciate that it is a competent and genuinely ambitious (as opposed to Audi or BMW hiding their head in the sand whilst holding up a sign that says “we’re ambitious, really!”) design that reminds me of Patrick le Quément. His designs have an intelligent quality to them where forms from the past aren’t slavishly copied, but broken down to reveal their true meaning (i.e. what they are meant to evoke in an onlooker) and reinterpreted accordingly.
I agree with Bristowfuller and Daniel the vertical black panels and louvres have to go. Regarding the louvres: is there a trend emerging where visibility to the rear doesn’t matter? The Polestar 4 has no rear window, but a camera. Furthermore you can gaze at the sky through the glass roof.
You can look up, but you can’t look out? Am I the only one who imagines the electrics going out leaving you with no view astern?
Painful to look at it – the wheels are just so awful ! H P Electric ? Sorry, no.
Something is stopping me from liking the design of this concept wholeheartedly. To my eyes, there are some really lovely elements, but I don’t view them as cohering to a whole. The rear lamps do not seem to belong to the rest of the car, and that black, vertical strip at the leading edge of the door causes an unnecessary disruption along what are otherwise very beautifully wrought flanks.
Generally speaking, I am not ‘getting’ concept car interiors at the moment, maybe I lack the intellect, although the colours, fabrics and materials are all very nice.
I fear the upcoming Ypsilon will very obviously be a reclothed 208/ Corsa, sending all our hopes crashing again.
But, as you say, let’s rejoice in a very nice concept, that it seems Lancia will resist the SUV trend (brave in itself), and that a senior designer seems to have the guts to put himself on the line for once-great marque.
Thanks for a nice article Eóin. I have mixed feelings about this Lancia. I want to love it, I really do. The stance is great, I like the stark modernist rear deck and I don’t really mind the vertical black panels. And I appreciate that it looks like not much else out there at the moment.
But there’s something about the surfacing that bothers me. I like how clean the side surface is for the most part, and I think something interesting could come from the tight technical area above and behind the front wheel. But I really dislike the way that the tight bonnet shoulderline transitions to fully “blown out” as it travels rearwards past the door. Similarly the sharp feature line around the front end transitions to bulging and billowy over the front wheel.
These surfaces are to me slightly reminiscent of (but nowhere near as bad as) Luigi Colani’s designs, which to me always resembled rolls of fat punctuated with nasty sharp lines. I am also interested to see how well these surfaces work outside of refined press photographs, as real-world reflections can get horribly out of control across transitions like those. I am being harsh here, but to me those surfaces are crucial because once the louvre details and black graphics are stripped away, they form the core of the exterior design.
Nevertheless, there is a lot of potential here. There is a lot of original thinking in this concept. The modernist mindset is to me much more appealing than the BMW/DS “add more and more flicks/creases/brightwork” approach, and as stated in the article, the interior is great. I really hope the best elements of this concept give rise to some fine production cars for Lancia’s comeback.
The shape of the side surfaces reminds me the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti.
The rear vision is no problem because cameras will substitute rear mirrors
The black vertical strip is the big talking point: why is it there?
On the minus side, it seems to have no functional role – that could better justify its existence.
On the plus side, it visually and conceptually links the mostly rectilinear and glassy roof and DLO (that look black under the sun) to the opaque and curvaceous surfaces bellow.
Correction: the black strip may be used to install the necessary rear view cameras and side repeaters
Truly a thing of great beauty, spoiled only by the wheels. And the vertical strip of over-size black duct-tape. And the lack of rear vision. And……. But of what purpose? Is there a market for it?
I, too, so want to believe. But……. The MG, on the other hand, looks to have real potential.
Like so many people on here, I really wish Lancia the best. HPE – Hopes, Prayers & Expectations, perhaps. As the article states, Stellantis seem to be taking Lancia’s rebirth very seriously, as demonstrated by the involvement of M. Ploué.
As for the concept itself, it won’t go in to production – it’s just a statement of intent. It does offer hope, though and the fact that it doesn’t have a grille could be a sign that they realize that cars are more than just badges.
I agree that the interior looks French – it reminded me of some Citroën concepts from a while back.
I have slight misgivings about the complexity of the interior and the ‘fullness’ of some of the concept’s exterior forms, but in the grand scheme of things they don’t matter.
It’s a shame that Lancia won’t be returning to the UK or Ireland in the near future, but it makes sense to manage its resurgence carefully. The coverage I’ve seen in the UK press has been very fair / positive – I think the problems which led to Lancia’s departure 30 years ago are viewed as ancient history.
Re MG – they’re really on fire (much like the Canyonero). I hope Lancia and other European brands can withstand the competition.
🔥 has many meanings, thankfully not all “a matter for the courts” (from the song – sung by Hank Williams jr. if I remember correctly). Very tangentially, I always chuckle when an F1 driver says something like “the car was on fire today”… the tone of voice in which this is delivered makes a big difference.
Those door linings definitely are a nod to the ones on the Gamma Coupe. Lancia’s last forward looking big car. It appears to be the same mix of materials- with no wood trim. Cloth, leather, high quality soft touch plastic, and aluminium
Hi Eóin, and thank you for your excellent post. I believe I’m in a rather good position to comment on this concept, as I’m a semi-serial Lancia owner, and a disgruntled Lancia enthusiast. I’m warning you, this is going to be a very long read.
Lancia’s been woefully mismanaged for far too long, subjected to an “Alfa über alles” diktat by Fiat’s top management. From the brittle plastics and flimsy seats of the poor-handling Y10 to the abysmal build quality and incomplete development of the (otherwise quite pretty) Delta III, it seems Fiat was trying to do the following things:
1. Drain customers from Lancia to feed Alfa Romeo by gradually shrinking Lancia’s range and removing any trace of any sporting pretense from what was left of it;
2. Make Lancia’s cars unattractive to contemporary buyers by exaggerating the retro element in Lancia’s design language;
3. Make Lancia’s cars mere trinkets for people who want a premium car outside the obvious choices and are willing to forgive the mediocre build quality and the atrocious, sadistic after sales “service” inflicted upon them.
As we all know, Fiat’s management failed miserably at the first goal. Am I speaking here with the benefit of twenty years of hindsight? Yes and no. Yes, because I’ve seen the results of this obsessive, idiotic insistence. No, because anyone with half a brain cell in working order could see this plan was doomed to fail from the beginning. There was simply no way a dedicated Lancista would say “OK, Lancia’s stable doesn’t have a steed for me, so I’ll buy one from Alfa instead”. The Lancista, provided the purchasing power, will sooner buy a pre-macho Audi or a Mercedes-Benz than an Alfa. Or a car from a Japanese manufacturer whose technical and design philosophy has similarities to Lancia.
They did succeed, however, in the other two goals.
For example, the Lybra was a fine car, but most people still can’t get themselves to like the front end and the tail-lights, and that includes people who appreciate the Dedra, people who bought and enjoyed the Delta II, people who appreciate the extremely understated Giugiaro-penned Thema, people who chose to buy a Thesis and still swear by it. That should say a lot about why that car was yet another missed opportunity. We must also note the lack of a really powerful “halo” version that would compete with appropriate German offerings on equal terms. The Thesis, on the other hand, is still a stylistically compromised car. Yes, I love its rear end, the wheels looked absolutely fantastic, the front end was quite interesting, yet it doesn’t look like everything came together as cohesively as I’d like. Let me go out on a limb and say I find the venerable Flaminia Berlina’s styling a bit frumpy even by 1950s standards.
They also saddled Lancias with serious build quality and usability issues in their corner-cutting spree. I’ll relate my own experience. The Delta III is a finely-styled car, but its fit and finish are a veritable crime against humanity and their juxtaposition with the exquisite nappa leather and the quite nice “Benova” on the dashboard is about as jarring as the worst cases of attribute clash in ZX Spectrum games. So much so, that the Columbia Business School’s W. Edwards Deming Center should be ashamed for giving him the Deming Cup in 2011. The car’s development was underfunded and rushed, so it’s no wonder it ended up being underdeveloped; in fact, I remember reading in period about how the serial overpromiser-underachiever Marchionne boasted about how quickly and how cheaply the Delta III was developed from a mish-mash of Fiat Bravo and Stilo bits. And there are other idiotic design decisions plaguing the car – for instance, the front passenger’s seat at its lowest position (in the height-adjustable versions, at least) rests almost 5 cm higher than the driver’s (again, at the lowest position), thus robbing the front passenger of precious headroom. What dim bulb had this hare-brained idea? Or the driver’s footwell, which was obviously not designed for people wearing shoes larger than 40 (in European sizing). Or the flaking chrome covering on various plastic trim bits the like door pulls. Or the satin silver instrument cluster surround that reflects the sunlight and makes the screen illegible during the day. Hell, Marchionne was such a cheapskate he couldn’t be bothered to design or license a real Unicode font (in 2008!) to offer multi-lingual support in the factory’s (ergonomically horrendous) Sat-Nav and the Blue & Me phone tethering facility. But he could waste money on a pointless marketing campaign in Second Life, Linden Lab’s über-niche virtual world. I could go on forever.
Watching Lancia’s “life” under Marchionne’s rule was a string of facepalms. The guy basically continued the chronic sabotaging and hemorraging of Lancia. The Ypsilon III was a gawky mini-Delta with mediocre handling and pathetic EuroNCAP ratings. The Musa, a very sensible car which, in certain markets, outsold its Fiat equivalent, was discontinued. And then, after Marchionne had reduced Lancia to the love child of an unfunny joke and a rotting corpse, he said the brand has no market appeal and all but killed it. Not that he managed to achieve much more than absolutely nothing with his strategic marketing decisions for Alfa: the 159/Brera/Spider failed miserably because their “marketing mix” was almost as demonically ill-conceived as the “Gangrene ‘n’ Honey” account LeChuck handed to Young Lindy, a former cabin boy turned advertiser.
Now, to the Pu+Ra concept. When the first teasers came out, I was skeptical about what we’d end up seeing and what would eventually roll out of the factory. I’ll refresh our memories a bit: the Fulvietta concept, which was extremely solid, attracted the right kind of attention, and seemed almost production-ready, came to nought. The Stilnovo became the Delta III, whose styling I actually prefer to the concept, but the Delta III was shot in the knees at birth. With 155mm heavy artillery rounds. So, yeah, I am skeptical, cynical, and downright jaded. I was unsure of the “calice” lighting arrangement on front part of the sculpture teased in the previous months, and the round tail-lights did hint at a crowd-pleasing Stratos revival, reinvention, or reinterpretation.
When I saw the concept car this weekend, my suspicion was confirmed. Yes, I do believe the Pu+Ra HPE aims to please all those people online who have been calling for a revival of the Stratos. My main issue with this choice is that the Stratos was intended almost exclusively for racing, and was not really meant to fit in the marque’s passenger car catalog. Therefore, I have my doubts as to how the design themes and ideas of the stratos can be incorporated in the design of a car that needs to carry a family of four or five, their dog, their luggage, and enough fuel or batteries to take them on a long(-ish) journey.
Then again, excluding the Stratos, how many cars from Lancia’s history have inspired people to come up with concepts, sketches, and 3D renders? Only the Fulvia Coupé, the Aurelia Spyder, and the exceedingly aggressive Delta HF Integrale Evo, which I view as a bit of an aberration in Lancia’s history.
What about the rest? Let’s see… I’m appalled to admit that none of the marque’s “other” cars enjoy this kind of admiration and adoration. At best, they have an almost cult-like following, but they don’t seem to inspire people. It’s a pity, but it’s also a reality we need to come to terms with. So, I guess using the Stratos as a starting point isn’t daft.
Thankfully, Ploué didn’t slavishly copy the Stratos. I was actually quite pleased to see the various nods to the Beta HPE; this was one of my personal favorites while I was growing up. In fact, I’ve been driven in one a few times, as a friend of mine back in my undegraduate years was driving his father’s HPE 1600. This is what leads me to discussing the interior…
I remember the front seats of the Beta HPE and Beta Coupé as not being uncomfortable. Yes, I’d like better lateral support for the upper body, but I don’t remember them as being bad in any way. What about the front seats of the Pu+Ra HPE, though? They’ll definitely need to be redesigned in order to be adapted to the needs of an actual road-going car. Ditto for the rear seats.
Marble dust as a material made me think of 1970s Kenwood turntables, while the range and recharge time figures ought to raise a few eyebrows – bold claims, indeed. What I’m having serious issues with, though, is the dashboard. I’ll put it bluntly: I’m against using touch screens for everything. The lack of physical controls that you can reach and locate without looking at them is dangerous. Of course, the same goes for the lack of tactile and audible feedback from the controls – there’s a reason why hardcore typists and coders prefer mechanical keyboards with Cherry MX Blue switches, or buckling spring affairs from the likes of IBM and Unicomp. I’m also unsure of the UI of the “SALA” infotainment system. I’ll need to actually use it in anger before I decide if I like it or not. As for the circular sunroof, it’s interesting, but I don’t know how practical it’d be to implement in a production car.
Now, let’s get back to the styling. As I said, it’s obviously a reinterpretation of the Stratos. But it’s not tasteless like the spite-driven Fenomenon project by Chris Hrabalek or needlessly nostalgic. It’s nice. It’s not yet another pseudo-military truck for people seeking to take their manhood-related insecurities out on other road users, and this is quite refreshing. It actually looks like a car, like a vehicle designed to take you on a journey in relative comfort and look good while doing so.
I agree with Christopher’s judgment: it’s a masterful and inspired design – my only criticism at the exterior design is the rear bumper, which looks a bit too rounded. What remains to be seen is how this design language will be incorporated in Lancia’s upcoming cars.
So, I like what I see here. I really do. But this time, I hope Stellantis will abandon the “tradition” of Fiat’s past twenty-five years and give Lancia the resources and the mandate to excel instead of offer a half-baked fashion statement designed to drive more customers away from Lancia in hopes some will end up buying an Alfa Romeo.
I have to say that when I think of Lancia, I never really think of the Stratos. Yes, it’s a fun enough little thing, but it could just as well have been badged a Ferrari, Alfa or Fiat. But as Konstantinos suggests, for many under 50, maybe even older, the Stratos is Lancia – Flaminias, Aurelias, etc are meaningless. So pragmatically speaking it’s a good starting point, as long as what it finally inspires isn’t a virtual 2 seat coupe which, in reality, even most Stratos fans won’t buy.
The only part of this I might question is the idea that Fiat group wanted to kill off Lancia. It was worse than that: they thought these products would work. They´d like to have sold more cars but were too stupid to either a) just close the brand down or b) give the space to make the right cars. It was neither close/nurture but somewhere in the middle. For the record, the Lybra is overall a very nice car but like the Thesis too retro. This PuRa avoids overt retro but for me the Stratos is not a classic Lancia at all. Lancia could be a brand for any one of the model types sold by Tesla apart from the silly truck-missile thing.
At least until Marchionne made a hopeless mess with his “wisdom”, Fiat certainly didn’t want to kill off Lancia. As you said, they gave it a “space” smack in the middle, which was way too narrow for Lancia. The Tesla analogy is neat, although I abhor its overprivileged, bratty owner. And let me go on record for agreeing that the Stratos is not a classic Lancia and should never be considered the quintessential Lancia at all.
Very interesting insights, Konstantinos. I remember renting an Ypsilon with the 1.2 FIRE engine in 2015 in Italy. I thought the straight line feel was a bit iffy, but on a twisty road it held its own, as long as you kept it under 6/10ths. It also had a wonderfully cold AC, which was a blessing in the horrible heat wave in Turin at that time.
As for the Delta III, it was a bit of a dream car for me at the time, but one time I checked one out in a dealership and didn´t like the rear seat. I was expecting a super comfy, Poltrona Frua cocoon and what a found instead was a totally unexpected stiff rear bench. I also never liked the humongous front overhang (around 1m, if my memory is correct). But, in the sporty 1.8 litre, 180hp version, the Delta III was very tempting indeed.
Hi Cesar, the third-generation Ypsilon was widely criticized for its roly-poly handling. Same goes for the second-generation one. The small Lancia I had was the Y10 1.1 i.e.; that car was originally launched as an Autobianchi. Let me tell you that even that engine, with its 55 HP, was way too much for the chassis. And the build quality was utter crap. I’m glad I moved on from this to a Clio II Phase II in 2002.
Hi Richard and Konstantinos. I agree with you both: the Stratos, whatever its qualities, is very much an outlier in Lancia’s history and certainly not a car I would regard as a ‘classic’ Lancia.
Hi Daniel! Indeed, the Stratos was an external project that was brought in by Bertone, and it had precisely zero impact on Lancia’s upcoming road-going projects.
That is a great summation. Thank you Konstantinos.
The most appealing aspect is the use of furniture tropes inside the car (appropriate, I think). And the bold use of colour provides some grounds for jollity. The main message is that Lancia is not going to vanish and that it looks as if the designers understand what it can be. I am pleased to note that the car is adhering to the excellent advice given at this website about Lancia being a vehicle for Modernist design and not a chance to use more walnut and leather as per its pseudo Rover/Jaguar period, nice and all as some of those cars are. The Beta, Trevi, HPE and earlier cars were advanced statements and combined great driving characteristics with a non-sporty identity. I think Hyundai and Kia have shown modernism is a go-er so Lancia need not be afraid to be modern too.
A pleasant Easter present- molto bene! Like several other commenters I feel the vertical black pieces need to go, and I could also do without the vertical part of the three LED light strips on the nose of the car. Otherwise it is impressive although what if any part is viable to make it into a production vehicle is open to question. The interior is lovely as well, and I like the recurring circular theme.
My initial general pleasant approval is a bit diminished when I view the interior more. Those seats are really refreshing, but seatbelts aren’t apparent, nor do they look as though they would function. The central wall appears hard and unyielding. And the steering wheel … how and, in fact, where do I hold it? Of course you can say I’m taking this too literally, the design is just ‘challenging assumptions’. But if it only challenges, yet ends up offering no viable alternative, that’s just a type of aesthetic anarchy. So maybe, for me, this designs truly impressive strength is that I am able to consider it seriously for half a day before deciding it’s just another silly show car that will do nothing to improve the dreadfully monotonous interiors of most of the real world vehicles I end up travelling in. But please do prove me wrong Lancia.
“seatbelts aren’t apparent” …”The central wall appears hard and unyielding”.
Hi Bristow, I also noticed (add the alarming disregard for typical knee protection, etc.). I think the answer lies in the implication and insinuation surrounding the garbage word “mobility” which disappointingly appears more than once on Lancia’s official Pu+Ra HPE website.
IMO, automakers need to abandon the ridiculous premise that our robot overlords will eliminate prangs and other missives (along with humanity) in the “just around the corner” fully autonomous dystopian future, and concentrate instead on fulfilling our childhood dreams of flying Chitty Chitty Bang Bang over traffic jams.
Re the Lancia “concept.” Nightmare is a better word.
Those wheels. The horror. The horror.
ExcelIent Article! I was surprised by the official pictures of this Lancia. I also like the wheels and the black stripe.
A really breath of fresh air, it is a typical italian strength to create a car with a lot of nicely designed details and then – in its entirety – they seem to become one unit.
But what surprises me even more : it looks better in metal : https://youtu.be/23PCZLbgGLo
Many thanks for the link. Clearly it has no suspension travel, and the tyres are not suitable for outdoor use, so it is meant as a piece of interior design – a bit like having a Ducati on the wall over your fireplace ( I presume everyone saw that edition of ‘Grand Designs’ ).
Possibly like other readers of this site, I was apprehensive regarding the wait of the Lancia concept. I have no confidence at all in any aspect of modern car design, so was expecting a dreadful and upsetting result.
Upon release of the images I was initially relieved, there was a lot to like but my hope for a Lancia future and success made me want to overlook features that appeared jarring. I agree that the wheels in particular seemed a very peculiar and contrasting choice and I found the nose jarring.
Thankfully, I’ve viewed the video posted by Markus. What a huge revelation – the car is absolutely stunning. This totally highlights the need for a return to the days of Motor Shows. A massive difference is made when viewing a car through the lens of a regular camera, never mind in person. The official images posted by Lancia hide its beauty and perfect stance – they make it appear as a computer generated image; maybe it is? Who knows these days?
I can now visualise the car as truly intended, appreciate the delicacy of form and its compact size. The shadows cast on the front of the car really show the alternative grille arrangement in spectacular fashion. The interior is perfection. As a whole, it is faultless. The first wonderful 21st century electric era design for me and the first that I will happily be daydreaming of owning. Lancia is back to relevance. Phew!
Markus, you and me are the only ones accepting the black stripe.
If we judge it on a personal taste perspective, each person has his point of view and his own, unquestionable feelings.
But I leave a couple of questions
Are we shure removing the strip would be an improvement? It would certainly be different, and IMO less ‘special’.
Said disruptive feature is not new, the first Audi R8 inaugurated it and in the end (at least to me, after my initial strong disliking) it won.
One can design an object using a completely coherent set of visual signs, belonging to the same ‘family’.
But an object may also be designed playing an higher game – using more than one visual language ‘family’ and betting you can manage to give a sense to the implied tension and contradiction arised between both.
Audi’s R8 won this game.
For instance, Citroens’s SM also won it, managing to marry a space-age frontal language with a barroque, ‘Versaillesque’ rear (and as I see it, mingling two strong and contraditory aspects of French culture)
Bordering the limits of good taste and apologising in advance:
‘Why does the the dog licks his private (…)?’
‘Because he can’
Gustavo, I like the black stripe too. I like your allusion to the R8, and perhaps now is the time to point out that the stripe has the same width as the wheel spokes, the ‘A’ pillar on the inside,the rear view camera/indicator repeater, the final width at the ends of the bonnet leading edge black panel, and the width of the projecting undertray/side skirt. As for the wheels, Alfa Romeo has taken the ‘telephone dial’ motif and since Saab is gone, someone has to claim ‘tri-spokes’. Three is the modernist minimum.
Thanks for the link, Markus. Just… wow. They did a fantastic job. Although… Maybe they should have added the badge in the middle of the “calice”?
I have recently become a huge fan of Ploué. In an interstellar burst, he’s back to save the universe. The only downside is that he is not Superman.
Better than I expected but my bar wasn’t set very high. It works better in the video, I wonder what it actually looks like in real life? The sketched out LED grille thingy looks part finished, the vertical bar needs to curve down and under a bit and really it needs a- tiny would be good- Lancia rouleaux triangle badge where they meet. It could be backlit, Wolseley style.
Bad wheels aren’t much harder to fix than bad sunglasses, I won’t lose sleep over them but the vertical black stripe, I can ignore no longer. Really it is the tail that works best.
Interior looks very welcoming, better men than me have already questioned the hard pointy surfaces though, so I’ll restrict myself to alcantara’s unique ability to look grubby quickly and note the early 90’s evocations I’m getting from the grey and yellow colours; early Dysons and channel tunnel train interiors.
I suppose the first question I ask myself is “What do I consider a ‘real’ Lancia?”. The next question would be “Is this a worthy successor to that tradition?” A further question bubbling around in the back of my mind is “Who are you kidding? You’ve never owned a Lancia!” – but we’ll ignore that one for now. 🙂
A real Lancia – to me that’s pre-Fiat, and early-Fiat. (Yes, I’ll admit the Beta.) Very technical. Thinking way outside the box. An engineer’s car, and unafraid to be so. Bodied by some of the best. A worthy successor? I think so.
On the whole I like it. In profile it calls to mind the Stratos with the roof stretched back to include some rear seats. Yes, I see the HPE allusions in some of the details, but to me the shape is Stratos Revisited. That’s good. One detail I cannot abide is the pointless black panel at the front of the doors. Yes, it provides a point of distinction I guess, and stops it looking too much like the next Mazda 3 (which would be a compliment), but, somehow that panel doesn’t work for me.
The other detail I’m unsure about is the front end treatment. The thin vertical element capped by an equally shallow vee – forming the letter Y – immediately called to mind the Y10. Now I’m probably the only person on the planet who’d think that, but putting that thought firmly aside, it’s certainly distinctive. Something about the surfacing whispers “Special Car!”; I think it’s the so-subtle transitions from the flat sides to the wheel arches. Love the interior, and the colours.
Italian design at its best. Just fix the black on the door, please.
I think it’s probably necessary to point out that Lancia’s re-animation is not going to see a return to the marque many of us revere and idealise. That Lancia is long deceased – FIAT’s mismanagement saw to that. But what we can at least hope for is a more thorough, more appropriate new age Lancia, which speaks of now, while acknowledging, rather than wallowing in its past.
Given that the forthcoming Ypsilon is set to be more crossover than hatchback in execution, I think a certain expectation management remains prudent, but nevertheless, given the seriousness exhibited here and the commitment of Ploué and the Lancia team, I am optimistic that this will amount to more than simply a reskin of existing product. I’m certainly more optimistic than I was a year ago.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that Lancia are seeking next year to replace what has been for them a very successful model line – one which has defied all attempts at euthanasia. Customers have been very loyal to the Ypsilon over its lengthy production run, so care is needed to ensure its replacement meets the requirement. It’s a fine balancing act Ploué et al have had to navigate. The new generation car will most likely be a larger, more expensive product. Will existing owners make the leap?
It’s good to see a variety of views as to the merits (or otherwise) of the HPE concept. If everyone liked it, I think it would have to be viewed as a failure.
Well, Eóin, it sure looks like there’s a bunch of persistent necromancers out there willing to cast all manner of resurrection spells on Lancia. Let’s hope it’ll emerge as something far more pleasant than LeChuck.
On a more serious note, I think I’d rather not have the “LANCIA” wording on the front; instead, I’d favor an illuminated Lancia badge in the middle of the “calice”. What do you think?
Frankly Konstantinos, the concept has already exceeded my (admittedly not very high) expectations, so I’m content to sit tight and await developments. Having shown this concept, Tavares and Napolitano are going to have to deliver. I’m fairly confident that they realise that. I’m equally sure that Ploué, Duvernier and the styling team tried all manner of iterations with the frontal treatment before arriving at a conclusion. I’m comfortable with what they have come up with.
What I consider interesting is the strength of feeling Lancia still inspires, despite its near-death experience.
Near-death? That’s the mother of all understatements! Lancia was taken to Big Whoop and got forced to “enjoy” all the rides of the Carnival of The Damned. Including the rollercoaster with the coffin-shaped wagons that plunges into a big pit of lava.
Lancia’s choice of Cassina for the interior is a positive sign, I think. If I had to define Lancia, I’d like to be able to use the words ‘modern’, ‘sophisticated’, ‘elegant’ and ‘comfortable’. Cassina seems to fit pretty well with those adjectives.
Only now I watched the vídeo.
After that, I find the lateral black stripes necessary.
The general shape is organic, but the front and rear black items play the extreme sharpness game.
Without the lateral stripe, those front and rear horizontal itens would resemble too much of mere competition additions.
The vertical black strip provides:
1-a link, a visual’bridge’ between front and rear aerodinamic black adenda
2-a contrast and tension between the sharp black items – vertical x horizontal
3- a necessary visual distraction : without it, the black items front and rear would send the design (conceptually) to the original Stratos (vulgar looking though necessary) competition add-ons.
For the brave: watch the video again and imagine the lateral stripes are not there. Would you still like as much as you do the car’s front and rear?
I know I wouldn’t.
Sorry but on the basis of this I do not Believe.
How otherwise sensible people can describe this monstrosity as ‘masterful’ and ‘cohesive’ is beyond me and merely goes to demonstrate the propensity to value hope over experience.
To be fair, the front end up to the A pillars is quite distinctive and well resolved, so I’m not knocking that. But it looks like it’s then been grafted on to an amorphous blob. The vertical black line only succeeds in accentuating the join between the two styles. The glasshouse looks like it came from a Suzuki Swift that has been sat on by an elephant. The doors are out of proportion to the rest of the car and the rear end is a crude pastiche of the Stratos – and why anyone would want to emulate the worst part of that particular car is anyone’s guess. And has already been mentioned the wheels are just a complete joke.
But the most puzzling question surrounding the whole concept is just ‘why’? Unlike some other posters who have been quick to criticise the Fiat strategy for the brand from the 1990’s onwards, I think in theory it had clear merits – Fiat was mass market, Alfa was sporting, and Lancia was to aim for the luxury end – so as to try to minimise overlap between the brands. The reason the strategy failed (apart from extremely patchy execution) was that it was flawed in the first place because the market for ‘luxurious’ ordinary cars collapsed – hence the demise of Rover amongst others. Those customers looking for space/comfort have migrated almost totally to SUV’s, leaving just the ‘practical car’ (domestic appliance style) market, plus brands with ‘sporting’ pretensions for testosterone filled young males (and females for that matter).
So given the above, why create a design which does not evoke either ‘practical’ or ‘sporting’? At best I would say it is pitched to be something deliberately ‘designer’ – as in seeking to be an item of ‘fashion’ with sharp/innovative looks (possibly concealing distinctly ordinary engineering underneath). The problem with this is as well as it having obvious flaws from the outset (because ‘fashion’ is fickle by its nature), Stellantis already has a brand covering this (small) segment – namely DS Automobile. So again the question, why??
Re: Fiat’s post-1990s “strategy”. It wasn’t based on the well-known Italian “Fiat per il popolo, Alfa per il sportivo, Lancia per il dottore” adage, but on a misconception that was a blatant, glaring insult to Lancisti throughout Europe. Let me freshen up everyone’s memory here a bit.
In 1986, Fiat acquired Alfa Romeo, whose coffers were emptier than a Golden Dawn supporter’s cranium. This acquisition was actually a dream come true for the execs at Turin, because of the whole Turin-Milan rivalry – they finally got the Milanese firm, which was a trophy for them. This explains the preferential treatment they gave it. Now, let’s reiterate a few thingies…
1. Although Fiat, Lancia, and Alfa shared platforms post-1986 (especially after the introduction of the 155 and the discontinuation of the 33), Alfa was allowed to use its own engines, whereas Lancia was obliged to use Fiat’s existing powerplants. Therefore, Alfa was granted a degree of technical individuality that Lancia was denied.
2. Which was the last Integrale Lancia? Even my 7-year-old nephew knows it was the Dedra. Did the Tipo 834 Thema get AwD? Nope. The system was given to Alfa for its 164, which named it “Q4”. Did the Dedra/Tipo-based Delta II get AWD for its HF version? Nope. Did the Lybra get AWD? Nope, this was reserved for the 156. Did the Thesis, for crying out loud, get AWD? Hahahahahaha, no: only the 166 got it. And after that, while Lancia was waiting in the doldrums, selling only the gawky, second-generation Ypsilon (with its Ford Popular-esque proportions) and the Thesis, with its range having a hole in the all-important C and D segments worthy of its own internet meme, who was given dibs on new model development? Alfa, with the 159/Brera/Spider trio that proved to be a monumental commercial flop. Oh, and they all got AWD for their range-toppers.
3. It was the overrated Marchionne and his lieutenants that bragged about how they “developed” the Delta III on a shoestring budget and in an extremely shot time. That’s NOT how you announce a premium model, even half-literate spoilt brat whose dad bought him/her a Marketing degree from a Greek private college knows it.
What hurt Lancia after 1990 was not some outside force that “killed” the “ordinary luxury car” market – at least not until the huge financial crisis of 2008, from which entire nations still haven’t recovered and won’t recover anytime soon. Rover was sabotaged at the very launch of the 75; it was corporate politics that ruined it. Lancia was ruined by internal corporate politics and top executives’ moronic beliefs.
What were these moronic beliefs? Simply put, they thought they could get away with reducing Lancia’s offerings to Rover SD3 status; that Lancia’s buyers would still buy Lancias even though they were thinly-disguised Fiats with a bit of wood and leather or alcantara here and there. Let me inform you that this was doomed to not last for long. Even though I have a soft spot for the Dedra, I still know it’s a reskinned Fiat Tempra – which wasn’t a bad car in and of itself, but the Dedra should have been much more special.
The Y10? Don’t make me laugh. I owned one. It was my first car. Let me tell you from first-hand experience it was a piece of shit. It was a facelifted first-generation Fiat PANDA, equipped with engines the floorpan was never designed for. Hell, it couldn’t even pass the 1.1 FIRE engine’s 55 horses on the tarmac smoothly – it had wheelspin and torque steering issues, and snap oversteer issues due to its high stance and short wheelbase. Its dash was made with brittle, poorly-molded plastics that made those of the first-generation Seat Ibiza (the one with the “System Porsche” engines) look BMW-like in comparison. Hell, even the fuel cap’s gasket dried up real soon and the car ended up leaking fuel on its right-hand rear wing every time I turned left and had the tank full. Do you seriously think this car would make someone want to move on to Lancia’s bigger cars? If you do, think again.
Also, you’re forgetting that the Fiat group has a long history of appalling after-sales “service”. Hell, it bit them in the rump for their cheaper brand, Fiat – and deservedly so. What makes you think more affluent and demanding people, like the ones Lancia and Alfa are after, will be willing to be subjected to years of torment and unnecessary expenditure?
I’m sorry, but I’m not letting buffoons like Paolo Cantarella (or, more appropriately, Cacarella) and Marchionne off the hook. When a major company fails, you must always look at the top management’s decisions first.
But maybe, Konstantinos, just maybe…
…applying the ‘retro’ style theme to the whole range might not also have helped?
I don’t remind any other brand doing that, proposing Y3, Delta 3, Lybra and Thesys to ‘il dottore’?
The Lybra, for instance, was heralded by the press as a very good , solid and well screwed product and sold well around here in 1.9 turbo diesel spec.
(I know a couple of them which have around around half a million km under their shoes without problems)
But steering a brand semanthics towards a narrow and short-lived stylistic trend seems a huge tactical error that no amount of commitment could overcome?
Overcooking the retro theme certainly doesn’t help; it was mentioned earlier that the Lybra in particular was too retro – I’ve heard people say it’s “grandpa’s car”. That’s NOT the kind of comment you want for your cars.
The Thesis seemed a bit too short (in length), while the front part may have seemed a bit too patrician and staid; probably not the wisest choice for a market whose buyers started wanting to be perceived as “dynamic”, “dashing”, and even “macho”.
The Delta III looks great – especially compared to what the industry inflicts upon our eyes today. In all honesty, though, I do wish its front overhang was at least 5 cm shorter. The Ypsilon III should have been given a lower roofline and possibly a lower ride stance – as it is, it looks as if someone squeezed a Delta III from the front and the rear to reach the desired length.
I also think Lancia chose the wrong people to associate the its cars with: Richard Gere, who featured in the Delta III’s commercials, was already old and the 30-something crowd Lancia needed to attract simply couldn’t connect with him.
And don’t get me started on the contrast between the Lybra’s über-retro image and the “action hero” storyboard in the commercials featuring Harrison Ford (who was already viewed as way too old).
I don’t mind trying to attract “il dottore” (and his equivalents) as a buyer: affluent, educated, well-regarded, and non-controversial people are generally highly desirable buyers in the “premium” market segments, since their choices often become things that others aspire to one day be able to buy. But you can’t rely on styling alone. You need substance, which Fiat didn’t let Lancia have. And, having owned two Lancias that were both bought new and were 18 years apart, this is a long-lasting policy that came from the highest ranks of Fiat’s management.
Sorry Konstantinos but much of what you say makes perfect sense to the average petrolhead – and is meaningless in the real world.
To start with maintaining a separate engineering lineage for Lancia – pull the other one. This has been totally uneconomic since the 1970’s – all big manufacturers pool chassis and engine development. And it’s not as if Fiat have been exactly bereft in that department – the Lampredi engine (for example) was at least as good as anything in the Lancia parts bin at the time, and subsequent Fiat engines (I’m excluding the GM period in this) have generally been at least comparable with best in class. You are correct that Fiat allowed Alfa to continue with their own engines – but this was just for a while until superceded by the next generation (even the mighty Busso – which did sterling service when fitted in certain Lancias remember – eventually got replaced).
In any case the average customer has no conception and precious little interest in engineering heritage (and this includes the availability of 4×4 options on saloon cars which was only ever a minuscule market). What they are interested in is brand image – and that the car’s style and execution are consistent with that image, of course. As I previously intimated, most customers (NOT petrolheads) flock to certain images – ‘sporty’, ‘practical/economic/reliable’, ‘fun’ and ‘rugged’ (I added the last two on further consideration since last post). Think of Lancia and you do not think of any of these – ‘stylish’ and ‘luxury’ might come to mind but these are customer expectations for ALL brands, not images for particular brands. Going back further to traditional Lancia you might say ‘innovative’ or ‘quirky’ but to go with this would also be ‘expensive’ and ‘unreliable’ which is not exactly where you want to be.
You are absolutely right to say Lancia has been saddled with ‘dogs’ from time to time recently – the latest Delta (a barely reskinned Fiat Bravo, which itself was a quicky update to the absolutely dire Stilo) being a very good example. But that is why I said ‘patchy execution’ of the ‘il dottore’ strategy. There were other examples (e.g. Thesis) that were reasonable renditions of the strategy – and yet still failed to sell. Which is evidence that the brand has run it’s course and should be left to rest in peace. Attempts to resurrect it now just look like internal posturing by various individuals in the management (with the proviso that there is a single serious challenge to find something to replace the Ypsilon so as to avoid losing that particular market segment in Italy).
Right. Let’s talk facts now: Lancia has been sharing engines with Fiat since 1972: with the exception of the Gamma, Lancia’s been using Fiat or Fiat-based engines for the past fifty-one years. Count them: fifty-one.
Is it a sensible decision? Absolutely. Does the Volkswagen Group do it? Yep. And they’re actually proud of it.
Are Fiat engines good? Yes, they are. Some of them are real gems. The Lampredi, which was the basis of the Beta’s engine, is one of them.
Let’s keep our focus on Alfa Romeo: engine-wise, it was given complete individuality for twenty-five years, 1986-2011.
Did the 33 keep the boxer engine? Sure did.
Was the boxer-engined Alfasud Sprint allowed to stay in production after Alfa was bought by Fiat? Yes. It was killed off in 1989.
When were the boxers dropped? In 1997; they were used in the 145 and 146 until then.
Did any other car in the Fiat group’s lines use the boxers? No. Just the 33, the ‘Suds, and the 145/146.
What about the Twin Sparks? Another Alfa Romeo exclusive.
What about the “Arese” V6? Only after 1990 was it green-lighted for use in the range-topping versions of Lancia’s flagships (the Giugiaro-penned Thema and the Thesis).
What about the JTS engines? Another Alfa Romeo exclusive.
Wouldn’t it have made much greater sense to consolidate the engine pool for all mass production marques and develop a range of excellent engines, which, in various states of tune, would power Fiats, Alfas, and Lancias, building a reputation for the Fiat group as an engineering powerhouse? It would. But noooo, the Alfisti wouldn’t let this happen. They’d sooner see Turin and Milan get carpet-bombed with EU-IMF “bailout” packages than allow their precious brand to be “contaminated” with “inferior powerplants”.
You’re correct in pointing out that the average buyer doesn’t give much of a damn about the engine’s pedigree (or lack thereof). Most follow Deng Xiaoping’s adage: “it doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.” Yet, you also want to have a hardcore, super-loyal group of buyers who will buy your stuff no matter what, and will cause others to follow suit. This is where you need to build a strong identity as a brand. It sounds a bit tribalistic, and it is – brand-sponsored car forums often promote, some more subtly than others, brand tribalism.
So, what will you do? VAG got it right in the late 1990s: they started developing excellent engines, and they used them in all their marques. And they managed to make it so that an Audi owner won’t feel “ashamed” for sharing a powerplant with a Škoda owner. How? They elevated the quality and status of all their brands; they didn’t allow any brand to fall behind in any way. Of course, German state money helped a lot (Germany seems to be the only EU member-state that gets away with subsidizing its industries, while making sure others aren’t allowed to do it).
But still, power to them: they were astute enough, they lobbied hard, they bargained hard, they studied each brand’s history and heritage very well, they built upon said heritage within the constraints of the current industrial setting, and they didn’t allow corporate infighting to get in the way. In fact, even though you won’t get a perceivably worse product if you buy a Škoda or a Seat instead of a VW or an Audi, they managed to avoid cannibalism among their brands. Did the Fiat group do the same? No. Did they try? No.
The Alfa Romeo V6 is one of my favourite set of sounds.
Sorry – I clicked on the wrong link, before.
‘Of course, German state money helped a lot (Germany seems to be the only EU member-state that gets away with subsidizing its industries, while making sure others aren’t allowed to do it)’
And now talking about politics became unavoidable.
Once the Euro currency was born (1998), one thing happened: the countries with a strong former currency suffered a desired devaluation that lowered the price of their products when sold abroad; inversely, those who formerly had a weak currency saw their products loose competitivness outside their borders.
This is a fact as certain as two parallel lines meeting each other on the infinite.
‘Deutch Marks’ became cheaper, ‘Italian Liras’ became more expensive, ‘French Francs’ stood broadly as they were.
German cars became cheaper, Italian Cars became more expensive. How could they compete?
This is the main explanation to the growth of the German auto industry and to the drowning of the Italian one in the past 25 years.
The rest is irrelevant compared with this macro reality
After reading the article and skimming through Konstantinos’ impassioned (and very correct, might I add) synopses of what has led Lancia to this point, I felt the need to add my own two cents.
As a kid born in America in 1999, Lancia has never been more than pictures on a screen to me, yet it is one of the automotive brands that fascinate and enchant me the most. Like Saab or Citroën of old, the idea of an engineering-led design brand, while long gone today, remains one of the most powerful associations that any marque can have for me and no doubt many other frequent readers of this site. To learn that Lancia’s best days were behind it long before I even reached driving age was disappointing but perhaps no surprise given the similar fates of the two aforementioned brands.
When I heard of Tavares’ plan to give all the Stellantis brands a decade to prove themselves I knew it would be curtains for Lancia who would probably continue to sell the current ‘white hen’ until 2033 if left as is. My hopes were not improved when they showcased the concept ‘suppository’ a few months ago which gave no tangible evidence that the brand would be anything more than a marketing pastiche. Leaked images of the Pu+Ra HPE didn’t help matters as I was skeptical of the treatment of the tri-point DRL signature which I thought resembled a particularly poorly conceived corporate grille that I sketched for Mitsubishi as a child.
Yet, despite all my misgivings, I like the Pu+Ra HPE a lot. I don’t think there’s much weight in analyzing a design through and through without trusting your initial gut reaction, and seeing the concept in full after its official release really did make me believe. Sadly this is the only site that I frequent where it seems this concept is of any real significance to the commentariat which perhaps portends a troubled future for the brand nonetheless as it is all but forgotten to the English speaking public.
Regardless, I actually quite like all of its radical (ha) styling characteristics. The tri-point DRL comes off as much nicer than I had feared; the vertical bar is particularly daring yet it works well, balanced by the visual width of the car. The black bar on the sides is cliché but accentuates the sporting nature of the vehicle without resorting to the slashes and creases that are the status quo, especially from the Germans. I don’t even find the tri-lobe wheels offensive; they are clearly concept car fare yet bring to mind the Saab tri-spokes of yore, something which I am extremely fond of. I enjoy the louvers as a retro callback and have no doubt they will find a more practical way to implement them in production. (Maybe something like the C5 X’s D-pillar graphic? Anything would be better than Ingenlath’s ridiculous production-ready Polestar 4). The only aspect I find immediately off-putting is the free-standing taillight rings and lettering. I understand that it showcases technologies that would only be possible today (the old adage of ‘design to the times’), but I just see a deep alcove ready to collect dirt and grime, eventually resulting in paint damage to the underlying area.
As for the interior, I think there is a bit of pearl-clutching here in the comments. As far as concept cars go it is one of the most traditional and recognizable in recent history and no doubt would be made much more mainstream in production. Half the concept cars today don’t even have steering wheels and their front seats face backwards! For Lancia to even have a steering wheel and dashboard alone is a feat worth commending, and the yellow seats and bronze metallic touches are a treat indeed.
What surprises me the most, though, is that the first comparison I drew to this concept was the Genesis Mint concept.
Whether it’s the color or the surfacing over the rear haunches or the upswept DLO shape, the two feel hand-in-hand in their Modernist, sensuous interpretation of traditional forms and rich, classical interiors. Is there any weight to be found in that similarity? Would it be remiss to perhaps perceive Genesis as the closest one could get to a modern Lancia, Lancia itself notwithstanding? Their histories and characteristics are quite disparate, of course, but somehow Genesis seems to be achieving a type of cerebrality that even Volvo is stepping away from these days. The G90 in particular strikes me as what a modern Flaminia could be, though for the real thing I suppose we’ll have to wait until 2026 to see that new Gamma.
Let’s hope Ploué really has his heart in this and sees Lancia through. Both Renault and Citroën started declining stylistically after his departure (the latter moreso) and it would be a shame for his talent to be hijacked by another Stellantis brand before Lancia has its fair chance.
Good point about Genesis. They do seem close to Lancia in their approach, even if they are the third brand in a conglomerate. I do have to say, however that the Pura and Mint concepts strike me as being quite different: the Mint’s a little awkward-looking to me. The Pura isn’t, even if it could be more coherent. Good point about the taillights and wordmark, too. Since this is a concept, however, I’ll allow myself the indulgence of really liking them.
In a comment further up the page, Markus Neubrand posted a Youtube video from Motor1. That site seems to have made a (purely speculative) rendering of the new (2008/Mokka, etc. based) Ypsilon:
Yes. Let’s hope it turns out a little better: it now looks like they’ve grafted the new Lancia nose onto a generic Opel body.
Interesting juxtaposition. I think what they have in common is not superficial but at depth. When you do a point by point analysis of the elements, most of them do different things. The biggest common element is a clean-ish flank and the number of doors. Both are commendable. I´d agree with the rear cylinder lamps but it´s not enough for me to discount the design.
I used to think Lexus was the most Lancia brand and it was until about 15 years ago. Even by Lexus´ birthyear Lancia could not make a car like the peerless LS400 which I still feel is a car in the spirit of Mr Lancia, the founder.
Maybe Italian, German and French language sites were more interested in Lancia´s news. They departed the UK/Ireland market by 1994 or so, which is a heck of a long time ago.
Thank you for an articulated piece.
And say a prayer, being a former possessor of two landmark Turin products – HPE and Beta Coupe.
I bet you miss them still. I saw a HPE last on the open road in the summer in Denmark two years ago. It was like seeing an owl, ghostly, hypnotic, mesmerising. Silver, against a blue sky.