Lancia/Chrysler – what's going on?
You may have noticed that two Chrysler's have been revealed to the UK market, called the Delta and the Ypsilon.
If you thought they sounded familiar, then you'd be right, because they're actually Lancia's and they're already on sale in Europe.
Get a FREE quote on your next CHRYSLER
Click below and save up to 30% on a new CHRYSLER
Both brands are owned by Fiat Group Automobile so, naturally, the Italian conglomerate has merged the two and will sell Lancias, distinctively European cars, in the UK, only they’ll be called Chryslers.
Confused? Probably, but according to Fiat, it’s a logical decision.
Once upon a time, Lancia used to make some of the most distinctive cars on the market with models like the Stratos and the Beta.
Back then these models were still derived from the racing and rally heritage of the brand, however more recently its models have become slightly less exciting but no less distinctive.
Lancia was bought out by Fiat, in 1969 and initially the Italian group looked to preserve the brand’s racing origins with stylish and unique designs, however as time has worn on, Lancia models have become less attractive to UK buyers and the brand gradually retreated from the UK market place.
There’s no denying that Fiat has retained a sense of individuality with some of its latest Lancia models like the Delta and the Ypsilon, sold outside of the UK in the rest of Europe, however they’re a far cry from the likes of the Stratos.
While that could be put down to a general toning-down in design from the madcap days of the 1970s, it could also be argued that Lancia stopped doing what it did best in making well priced, individual cars and the discerning UK motorist had had enough.
[caption id="attachment_5630" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="The Chrysler Ypsilon"][/caption]
Chrysler has had a mixed history in the UK, too, with a number of high profile calamities in design appearing alongside the Grand Voyager.
The Grand Voyager, while conservative, is a fairly popular people carrier in the UK and a car often chosen to ferry the great and the good from airports, but it’s not exactly taken the market by storm.
The Crossfire and the PT Cruiser have been slightly less successful with both models panned by critics in the UK and, in 2009, Chrysler was on the brink of bankruptcy; until Fiat stepped in.
Fiat bought out the company and in the time since the deal was struck, Chrysler has experienced 17 months of volume growth worldwide since the buyout.
That has put the distinctly American manufacturer on the edge of a new product offensive, which is where Lancia steps in where the UK market is concerned with the Italian cars set to wear the American badge.
The first new models to be released in the UK by Chrysler, this time around, will be the Delta and the Ypsilon and their names alone are enough to give away the new make-up of the brand.
Lancia has always used letters of the Greek alphabet to label its cars. There was the Beta, the Gamma and the Delta and now there’s the Ypsilon and the Delta, again.
Chrysler, on the other hand, has taken a traditionally more American approach to names.
For its people carrier, a car that must take its occupants on long treks in plush surroundings, there was the Grand Voyager name and for its small coupe/roadster there was a similarly unsubtle thought process which resulted in the Crossfire moniker.
However, either the latest Delta and Ypsilon are a clean break from tradition from the American manufacturer or the new models are actually Lancias.
[caption id="attachment_5632" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="The Lancia Ypsilon"][/caption]
Why has Fiat rebadged Lancias as Chryslers?
It’s a strange one but the reasoning behind the decision seems logical.
According to the Italian conglomerate, Chrysler has something of a presence in the UK, as well as a following, whereas Lancia doesn’t; having pulled out of the market in the early 1990s amid complaints of rust and reliability.
So ‘sense’ prevailed at Fiat HQ and the new owners of Chrysler have decided that Lancias will be Chryslers, but other than a badge, they will apparently carry zero influence from the American brand, other than its name.
In other words they are Lancias, and not even new ones at that, they’ve just had a new badge slapped on.
Will it work?
Whether Chrysler has a big enough brand presence in the UK to stake a claim to new buyers in the popular supermini and hatchback segments – where the new Ypsilon and Delta will sit – is up for debate, but the move follows a growing trend from a number of foreign manufacturers’ attempts to conquer the difficult UK market.
Ssangyong and Chevrolet are two that immediately come to mind, while Kia and Hyundai have followed a similar path previously.
After slow starts to their lives in the UK, both Ssangyong and Chevrolet went through a period of reorganisation where they updated their vehicles with a more European focus.
That meant new interiors, drives and engines to fall in line with European customer demands, which typically favour a higher-quality interior, more efficient engines and softer rides.
While Chevrolet has already released a number of models since its European makeover, including the new Cruze hatchback, Ssangyong is currently in the middle of that process with the Korando crossover SUV.
The result is a range of models which are more suited to the needs of European motorists which has allowed the manufacturers to gain more sales.
With Fiat’s decision to rebadge Lancias as Chryslers, it’s essentially doing the same thing.
Lancia is a European brand and still sells cars across the continent, it will continue to do so as Lancia outside of the UK, however in Britain its vehicles will be badged as Chryslers.
They’re so European in fact, that some journalists have noted the similarities between the Ypsilon and the Fiat 500, on which it is loosely based - one of the most European-inspired models available on the market.
It’s a difficult one to get your head around but one that should see the return of the Lancia and the preservation of Chrysler, in one form or another.