TURIN, Italy -- The Chrysler brand will disappear from dealer showrooms in Europe under a distribution shake-up planned by Fiat S.p.A.
By 2011, Chrysler cars will be sold under the Lancia badge all over Europe -- except in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where Lancia does not sell cars. The Chrysler name will remain in those countries.
About 1,150 Chrysler and Lancia dealers in Europe have been notified that their contracts will end May 31, 2011, in a step toward creating a single European sales network for the two brands. About 350 dealers will be eliminated.
Chrysler has 556 dealers with about 750 showrooms. The franchise also includes the Dodge and Jeep brands. Lancia has 595 dealers with 785 showrooms in continental Europe.
Chrysler Group sales in Europe last year totaled 54,344 vehicles, according to figures from ACEA, an industry association. Sales of Chrysler-badged vehicles in 2009 totaled 11,500.
"Our plan is to have in place by May 2011 a Lancia-Chrysler integrated network comprising about 800 dealers and over 1,000 dealerships," Chrysler and Lancia CEO Olivier Francois told Automotive News Europe by e-mail.
Fiat sales chief Lorenzo Sistino said Chrysler's Dodge brand will become a niche player in Europe, importing only muscle cars such as the Charger sedan, Challenger coupe and Viper sports car. The Jeep brand will remain with a full line.
Cars sold in Europe under the Lancia badge will be Chrysler's new compact and mid-sized sedans, which will replace the PT Cruiser and Sebring, as well as the new 300C sedan and a revised Voyager minivan, sold as the Town & Country in the United States.
Sistino said most Chrysler dealers that also sell Jeep models will be given a new franchise contract for Jeep. Where gaps emerge in the Jeep network in Europe, the Jeep franchise will be offered to Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Lancia dealers.
The five-year strategic plan of Fiat Group CEO Sergio Marchionne calls for Lancia-Chrysler to sell a combined 300,000 vehicles in Europe in 2014, up from 132,500 last year.
Fiat, which owns 20 percent of Chrysler, became Chrysler' general distributor for Europe in March when Chrysler's European sales organization was folded into Fiat's national sales companies.