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  • He combined quality and quantity


    VINCENZO LANCIA
    Lancia didn't need to advertise his cars.
    1881-1937

    Automotive News Europe

    At the turn of the 19th century there were two types of carmakers -- those that could build high volumes of average-quality cars and those that could make a handful of high-quality cars.

    Vincenzo Lancia stood out because his car company provided a perfect balance of quality and quantity.

    After working as an apprentice for Italian carmaking pioneer Giovanni Ceirano and then as a race car driver for Fiat, Lancia started his own car company in 1906.

    Early Lancia models were practical, light and performed well. Each car served as a stepping stone that guided Lancia to his breakthrough model -- the 1922 Lambda.

    The car offered fully independent front suspension and the world's first integrated chassis-body construction. Because of its low build and pragmatic design, the Lambda soon became a favorite of Europe's avant garde motorists who wanted a car that drove as beautifully as it looked.

    Convinced of the quality of his products, Lancia did not advertise his cars in the media. Selling by reputation to discerning motorists, Lancia made enough money to build himself a state-of-the-art manufacturing site in Turin. He succeeded because he was able to industrialize his innovations.

    Lancia gained economies of scale by using the most sophisticated tooling available. The result was that his company could produce more than 4,000 units of his high-end models a year by the 1930s.

    Meanwhile, high-end carmakers of the day such as Alfa Romeo and Bugatti struggled to build hundreds of cars annually because of their reliance on artisan handwork.

    The commercial success of the Lambda enabled Lancia to continue to improve his manufacturing methods. This led to low-volume production of superior models such as the small Astura, the Augusta sedan and finally his all-time masterpiece, the 1937 Aprilia. Even today, the Aprilia is used as an example of applied aerodynamics, intelligent packaging and top performance.