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Exclusive: Lancias for Oz as Chryslers

Delta force: Chrysler unveiled a rebadged version of the Lancia Delta at the Detroit motor show.

Fiat boss confirms that rebadged Lancias will sell as Chryslers in Australia

19 Jan 2010

LANCIA cars are set to return to Australia as Chryslers.

Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has confirmed to GoAuto that a global plan to introduce Fiat group products branded as Chryslers in markets where Lancia is not selling cars would extend to the Asia Pacific and Australia.

Asked if we would see Lancia cars as Chryslers in Australia, Mr Marchionne said: “As Chryslers? Yes, you will. Fear not, you will. To the extent that Lancia is not active, not present in any given jurisdiction, Chrysler will be with a combined offering of Lancia and Chrysler.”

Lancia is a premium division which offers re-mixed Fiat models with adventurous styling and luxury features.

Models such as the Lancia Beta and Flavia were sold in Australia until the early 1990s before fading out of the market.

No Lancias are currently produced in right-hand drive, but Fiat is reportedly keen to get into markets such as the United Kingdom, which would help justify doing the engineering work for Australia.

Mr Marchionne has signalled his intention to merge Lancia and Chrysler model lines around the world.

In markets where Lancia is already present, key Chrysler models will be rebadged as Lancias. For every other market, the small premium Lancias will be rebadged and used to fill out the Chrysler range.

“The benefit of this alliance is that both Lancia and Chrysler will become full liners,” Mr Marchionne said.

“In the case of Chrysler they had nothing below the Sebring and in the case of the Lancia they had nothing above the Delta, so it is a good marriage.”

Asked if this was a cheaper option than introducing Lancia as a stand-alone brand, Mr Marchionne said such a move would have been impossible.

“I don’t have enough money or resources to get that done, to be honest,” he said.

11 center imageFrom top: Lancia Ypsilon, Lancia Phedra, Fiat-Chrylser CEO Sergio Marchionne.

Chrysler did not hold a formal media presentation at the Detroit motor show, but did present a Lancia Delta wearing a fresh grille with a Chrysler badge.

The Chrysler stand was also shared with other Fiat brands, including Maserati and Ferrari.

No information was available about the vehicle and the staff at the stand said they had not been given any details about it, not even a name.

The Delta was there to demonstrate that Fiat would move quickly to leverage Lancia products.

“The rebadge that you saw downstairs, (or) which people called a rebadge, is fundamentally an indication of which way the future will develop,” Mr Marchionne told GoAuto.

The Delta is a small five-door hatchback based on the same platform as the Fiat Bravo (sold here as the Ritmo) and, like all Lancias, is marketed as a premium product.

Available engines include two versions of a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and three common-rail diesels including 1.6-litre, 1.9-litre and 2.0-litre displacements.

Another likely addition to the Chrysler range in Australia is the Ypsilon three-door hatch, based on the Fiat 500 platform – a size smaller than the Delta. It is available with two versions of the 1.3-litre common-rail diesel as well as two petrol units, a 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre.

Lancia also sells the Musa mini people-mover and the Phedra full-size people-mover.

Ateco Automotive currently holds the rights to distribute Lancia in Australia, but this would not cover Lancia products built and sold as Chryslers.

Ateco, which Mr Marchionne describes as a “great friend of the house”, distributes Fiat group brands, including Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Fiat and Ferrari.

Chrysler Group Australia, which is about to move in with Fiat-owned truck brand Iveco in Dandenong, Victoria, handles Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brands.

Asked if there were any plans to alter the distribution of Fiat and Chrysler vehicles in Australia, Mr Marchionne indicated a more streamlined approach would be beneficial, but was not decided what form it could take.

“We need to converge the way in which we are distributing cars in Australia, simply because of the fact that the car side needs to somehow be optimised,” he said.

“I don’t have an answer to that question yet. I know that Chrysler can continue to function and distribute as it does now.”

Mr Marchionne’s strategy for the restructured Chrysler includes not only products but also technology sharing with the Fiat group.

Chrysler announced earlier this month that it would revamp its powertrain line-up with a range of four-cylinder engines from Fiat.

It said it would introduce the 1.4-litre Fire four-cylinder with MultiAir variable valve actuation, producing 75kW in naturally aspirated form and 128kW as a turbo. The first US application of the engine would be in the Fiat 500, which arrives there late this year.

A 2.4-litre 142kW four-cylinder Fiat engine with MultiAir is also on the Chrysler menu for its medium-sized vehicles, along with a turbocharged version.

Chrysler will introduce the new Pentastar V6 it has already developed to replace six Chrysler engines. This engine will also be adopted by the Fiat group and is likely to replace the Alfa GT, Brera and Spider’s 3.2-litre V6, which until recently was produced by Holden in Port Melbourne.

Mr Marchionne said using the 209kW 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 made sense.

“This engine is replacing a very confused array of V6 engines that this group has had,” he said.

“We need to clean up that confusion because industrially it makes no sense and they were not current, technically.”

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