Chrysler-Lancia vehicles won't have timing on their side

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News

Will Europe embrace rebadged Chryslers, marketed by Lancia?

The Lancia stand at next week's Geneva motor show will nearly look like a Chrysler showroom. Lightly freshened Town & Country, 200 and 300 vehicles will cover the display area.

The model names are changed, of course. The minivan will be called the Lancia Grand Voyager, the big 300 will be named the Lancia Thema, and the 200 will be introduced as a concept, the Lancia Flavia.

The vehicles will certainly stand out on the Geneva floor, I'm sure. But not for the reason Lancia intended.

The cost of a barrel of oil will be a common topic during conversations next week. New hybrids and electric vehicles along with other technology that reduces fuel consumption will catch the fancy of the international press.

But with the price of crude oil around $100 a barrel, unfortunately the timing for introducing big American vehicles marketed by Lancia or any other automaker could not be worse.

Of course, the decision to rebadge Chryslers was made over a year ago when the price of petroleum was somewhat lower.

Today, however, Lancia and Fiat likely will be perceived as being out of step with the rest of the world.