Chrysler Brand Luxuriates in Lancia Disguise
The deal Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionni put in place to win 5% of Chrysler by exporting models from the U.S. never looked better.
GENEVA – The unification of Chrysler and Fiat is a done deal if Chrysler cars succeed in Europe as Lancias.
Chrysler rarely has had the international presence it enjoys in Italian disguise at the auto show here this year, as Olivier Francois, the French CEO of both brands, introduces the Chrysler Grand Voyager minivan and 300 and 200 sedans as the Lancia Grand Voyager, Thema and Flavia.
Francois says the Grand Voyager-turned-Lancia offers “European-style luxury, attention to detail and a new level of quality.”
While the Chrysler 300’s transformation into the top-of-the-range Lancia Thema is a given, the 200 could become the Flavia if dealers accept the idea. Lancia already has a car, the Delta, which is about the same size. However, the 200 also comes as a convertible, which could push the decision its way.
Meanwhile, across the aisle, Fiat introduces the Dodge Journey as the Fiat Freemont.
The 200/Flavia deal is the only element not ironed down, but Francois says it could go into production in six months once a decision is made. The 300/Thema is a “world-class sedan that has found perfection in the union of two worlds,” he says.
In terms of volume for what Fiat hopes is the growing Lancia brand, the new Ypsilon will be the leader. The car, 100% Italian, already has 1.5 million owners.
The 5-door hatchback, powered by a 0.9L gasoline engine, will arrive in June. It is based on a stretched version of the popular Fiat 500 platform.
Current dealer networks for the Lancia, Chrysler and Dodge brands in Europe will transform into Lancia dealers everywhere but the U.K., where they will be Chrysler dealers. The Lancia network will grow from 680 dealers in 2010 to 850 on June 1.
Last year, the Lancia brand sold just 115,000 units, but this year it likely will grow in double digits with the new products and larger dealer network.
Jeep, the other Chrysler brand, will continue to be sold under the Jeep brand in Europe through its own dealer network, although it often will be paired with Lancia.