If you were to say to anyone today to think of an Italian car brand, what would come to their mind is ‘Fiat, Alfa Romeo or Maserati’. If you were to question someone on a brand of innovation, they may say ‘Honda, Toyota, Mercedes or Saab’. And motorsport pedigree, they may say ‘Ford, BMW, Lotus or Nissan’.
However people in the UK and most of the world (apart from Italy and some European countries) who are old enough, will remember a name ‘Lancia’. To them, it’s an automotive brand they recall of hearing years ago, but hear of no more, such as ‘Datsun, Austin or Oldsmobile’. The brand still lives on (just) as a subsidiary of the Fiat Group, mainly producing the Fiat Panda/500 based Ylipson city car, which is just badged as a Chrysler in some markets, along with the Bravo-based Delta.
Lancia was once one of the most innovative brands, not just from Italy, but from the automotive industry in general. Even more so considering after WW2, Italian brands got financial support from the American Government, to help support their manufacturing industry; Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Maserati got support, however Lancia did not get anything as the son of the head of Lancia, was in conjunction with a communist party during WW2. However Lancia would overcome this issue, producing cars with brilliant build quality, great looks, great performance and handling dynamics and were quite reliable. However the aspect of reliability and build quality came into question after Fiat purchased and took over Lancia in 1969.
Despite this there was one thing Lancia where not deprived of, which wasn’t retaining great, desirable Italian design- how they drove. Lancia where still a benchmark for driving dynamics, and more so, that translated into motorsport. While Lancia had success in touring car, indy car and lemans, they highlight of how they imprinted upon motorsport history was in rally sport. Lancia to date are the only brand to win six WRC titles, consistently in a row, with the Delta HF Integrale & Evoluzione in the 90’s Group A era. Prior to that they were the only competitor in the Group-B era of the 80’s to win without using a four-wheel-drive set up; the beta montecarlo based 037-Stradale was mid-engined, rear wheel drive. And prior to that, they won a bulk of the WRC titles in the 70’s with the Stratos HF and Fulvia HF.
Nowadays, Lancia is hardly a brand of its on, while many car brands share platforms, Lancia only produce two cars, the Ylipson (based of a Fiat 500/Panda) and the Delta (a redesigned Fiat Bravo). Other cars included the Flavia which was ust a rebadged Chrysler Sebring Convertible and the notable Thema nameplate, now applied to a Chrysler 300C. Word from Sergio Marichrome in the recent years has indicated a grim fate for the Brand, that it may be phased out; however that they will go out making noise, with a possible remake of the Iconic Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione. There is a modern remake of the Stratos, based off a Ferrari F430 Scuderia, but it is unnoficial and hasn’t anything to do with Fiat/ Lancia.
If only Lancia could be pitched as a brand between Fiat and Alfa Romeo; a regular Italian brand, but that has a sporting pedigree, but isn’t a luxury brand such as Alfa Romeo. The Delta could be pitched as a C-segment/compact with a sporting edge, to tackle the Golf, Focus, Civic, Leon- with a hot hatch variant, the HF Integrale to tackle the sorts of the Focus ST, Golf GTi, Giulietta QV, Subaru WRX, S3, M240i and the Civic Si, etc- a more extreme Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione to tackle the Focus RS, Golf R, Megane RS, Audi RS3, WRX STi, Civic Type R, etc. The Beta Monte-Carlo could be revived as a budget Alfa Romeo 4C, with a hardcore, limited 037 variant; with regards to the stratos, while it bears resemblance to the 4C in many respects, the original Stratos was an exotic with a Ferrari v6 Dino powerplant- so maybe a more extreme 4C based car with a Ferrari built-maserati v6, to take on the Exige S, R8 v8, Hondas NSX? While the Beta was a midsize like the Fulvia, its successor, to revive both nameplates, the Beta could be reintroduced as a sport alternative to D-segment/ Midsize sedans/saloons, to tackle the Mondeo, Passat, 508, Accord, Legacy, whereas the Fulvia could be a coupe variant with sporting edge engines offered, as an alternative to the TT, RCZ, Mustang Turbo? Could they be daring and experimental and make a Beta HPE- a sporty shooting brake- or estate/wagon?
While that to most (auto enthusiasts) would be a dream, it wouldn’t fit in in terms of the consumer market of automobiles. Coupes, sedans and even compacts are being suffocated by this mad craze most consumers have to buy Crossovers. Who knows though, if that craze quiets down someday, and people realize most crossovers are pretty much useless minivans/people carriers, then there may more balance and more appeal in the market once more for nice driving sedans/saloons, coupes and hatchbacks.