Detroit beat meets Italian opera
|Paul McVeigh is managing editor at Automotive News Europe.|
Lancia CEO Oliver Francois did his utmost to convince skeptics that rebadging Chrysler cars and selling them as Lancias in Europe is a good thing for Fiat's upscale brand.
Unveiling Lancia's new lineup in Geneva, Francois talked of the Lancia-Chrysler connection as uniting the "Detroit beat of Eminem with Italian opera."
Lancia's new flagship, the Thema -- a rebadged Chrysler 300 -- combines "American roominess with Italian style," said Francois, who is also CEO of Chrysler.
He continued the U.S.-Italian theme while introducing Lancia's other Chryslers -- the Lancia Grand Voyager minivan and the Lancia Flavia, which is based on the Chrysler 200.
The melding of the two brands combines Chrysler -- "an icon of the American dream" with Italian flair, Francois added. It was, he said, "a union of two worlds, two cultures."
Francois also had a pop at rival European automakers. Chrysler-Lancia models like the Thema will give customers "an alternative to German monochrome," he said.
Lancia is struggling to reverse years of declining sales. Product-starved dealers can only be delighted that synergies with Chrysler are giving the brand a new flagship two years after the Thesis was discontinued, as well as a minivan targeted at families and a Flavia sedan and convertible, although the Flavia is as yet still a concept.
But European car buyers see Lancia as an icon of Italian finesse and it remains to be seen whether rebadged American cars will hit the right note with them.