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Lancia cars before and after Chrysler

lancia logoLancia has a history of style and elegance — and more than a century of tradition, too.

With a lineage dating back to the early 20th century, the Italian-based automobile company has produced distinctive passenger, fast touring, sports and racing cars for over 100 years that are known both for their beauty as well as being innovative.

In 1906, Lancia Automobiles S.p.A. (first named Lancia & Co.) was founded in Turin, Italy, by Fiat racing drivers Vincenzo Lancia and Claudio Fogolin.  Count Carlo Biscaretti di Ruffia designed the original Lancia logo, which showed a lance and shield with a flag (at right).

 The Lancia Alfa 12 HP was the first car developed by the fledgling company.  First road tested in September 1907, the car started production in 1908; with its side-valve straight-4 engine, it had a top speed of about 90 kilometers per hour (56 mph) with a 2544 cc engine producing 28 horsepower and rotating around 1,800 revolutions per minute.  The Alfa sold over 100 copies; it was also made for racing, one of many Lancia automobiles that gained stature as rally cars.

After Vincenzo Lancia died of a heart attack in 1937, his wife Adele Miglietti Lancia and his son Gianni Lancia took over the company.  They brought Vittorio Jano on board as an engineer.  Jano had gained fame for constructing some of the most successful race cars of its time for Alfa Romeo, including the Alfa Romeo 6C.

Lancia Ypsilon

Among the innovative cars introduced by Lancia, the 1913 Theta became the first European-produced car with a complete electrical system as standard equipment; the Series 3 Ardea, with the first 5 speed gearbox to be fitted to a production car; and the first full-production V6 engine, in the 1950 Aurelia.  Lancia was also at the forefront of the use of independent suspension in production cars.

While Lancia strove for excellence, down to its distinctive logo, the cost of producing these hand-made automobiles was high, while demand for them was not strong enough to survive; by the late 1960s, the company's high standards of production had become unsustainable.  

Lancia Delta

Lancia under Fiat

Dan Minick pointed out that Lancia’s unique character survived the 1969 Fiat buyout. The Beta used a Fiat motor, but it did not share a platform with Fiat, and was FWD while similar Fiats were RWD. The Gamma was completely Lancia, from the flat four motor to the quirky styling.

The first generation Delta used a Fiat platform with unique styling and a suspension that put Lancia back in the forefront of rallying; the second generation was somewhat watered down and the third became a luxury hatch. The Stratos was their halo car, making a mark in rallying.

While Prisma/Dedra/Lybra were “forgettable,” the big Thema was well received; the Ferrari V8 version was a halo car. Thesis did not do as well. The Musa was a sales success, but inconsistent with the brand; the Zeta/Phedra, “might as well join the minivan craze.”

The A110/Y10/Ypsilon was a replacement for merging the Autobianchi brand into Lancia. It sold well, though it is not what Lancia used to stand for.

The Fiat takeover wasn’t the death of Lancia, but once Alfa Romeo was brought into the fold, Lancia’s sports/rally qualities were taken away and given to Alfa. Now Lancia is a semi-luxury brand, which isn’t “wrong,” but it’s not what Lancia used to be.

In 1969, Lancia accepted a takeover bid by Fiat.  New models like the Stratos, Gamma, and Beta were introduced;  Lancia was officially introduced to the United States in 1975.  During the 1980s, the Lancia Delta was sold as the Saab 600 in Sweden; from 1984 to 1994, the flagship Lancia Thema shared the "Type Four" chassis with the Saab 9000, Fiat Croma, and Alfa Romeo 164.

In 2009, after Fiat acquired a stake of Chrysler, it rolled out plans for the Chrysler brand and Lancia to codevelop products and some Chrysler cars were sold as Lancias and vice versa.  Olivier Francois, Lancia's CEO, took over as CEO of the Chrysler division with an eye toward reestablishing Chrysler as an upscale brand emphasizing driving pleasure and safety while also utilizing the latest engine technology. Sergio Marchionne reiterated that he saw Chrysler as a primary way to preserve the money-losing Lancia brand.

Fiat launched four Chrysler-based vehicles at the 2011 Geneva International Motor Show, including rebadged and possibly retuned versions of the minivans and the Chrysler 300 made in Canada.

Lancia's trademark elegance is branded in the use of letters of the Greek alphabet as the names of its models, such as Ypsilon, Musa and Delta.  It has an eye-catching web site that is is as elegant as the automobiles that carry the Lancia name.

With an eye toward providing the best possible performance, Lancia brand remains an irresistible automobile, one that is unmistakably a precise brand image.  Together with Chrysler, it's a partnership filled with an unlimited potential.  One that might make its founder, Vincenzo Lancia, proud.

Chrysler cars under the Lancia label

While the Dodge Journey has gained a new Eurolife as the Fiat Freemont, most Chrysler cars will make their way to Europe as Lancias. In general, rather than bending Chrysler to fit Lancia, Fiat has bent Lancia to fit Chrysler — which makes sense since the Chrysler line is largely new or strongly refreshed, and was styled with both Chrysler and Lancia in mind. Hence, the main exterior difference between Chrysler and Lancia models originating in Auburn Hills is the grille. One underhood difference between the two is the presence of diesel engines in the Lancias.

The 2011+ Chrysler 300C brings more class and luxury to the Chrysler brand than it has seen in a long time.  The 300C’s sister for Europe revives memories of exotic big Lancias of the past and gives Lancia a flagship much better looking then the current, slow selling Thesis.

Lancia Thema

 A face lift and a Lancia badge for Europe gives new life to the perennial minivan.  The Chrysler-Lancia Voyager minivans are running down the line with both left-hand and right-hand drive. A 2.8 liter diesel joins the 3.6 liter V6, along with changes to protect pedestrians in an accident (hoods have charged actuators at the rear corners which sheer the hinge rivets, allowing the rear of the hood to raise in a pedestrian collision; hinges are spring assisted to cushion the blow, and an extended chin spoiler directs the body towards the hood.) Other features not found in domestic vans include headlight washers, power folding mirrors with auto return, and retractable cargo cover.

Lancia Grand Voyager 

The Chrysler 200 Convertible was sold as the Lancia Flavia. However, in 2014, Sergio Marchionne announced that the Lancia brand would be withdrawn everywhere but in Italy within the next three years; there may be no replacement for Flavia and Thema, but Voyager is expected to be re-branded as a Fiat, as Journey was.

 


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