CARte Blanche

by Philip Djaferis

Fiat post 6th of May 2014

On the 6th of May, Mr. Marchione revealed his grand plan for the Fiat-Chrysler group for the next five years. Its still too early to tell how much of his vision will ever see the light of day but he has a lot on his plate.  It’s sad that for the Lancia brand the end of the tunnel doesn’t seem to have too much light – it would be a travesty to see this storied brand relegated to mini cars which are not part of its DNA.  Reading through the lines it appeared that the brand would only survive in Italy but rumours are already going around that the brand will also live on in at least the Benelux.

Mr. Marchione maintains that there is no brand recognition for Lancia beyond Italy. Whilst not as known as some other brands, Lancia has such deep heritage that it could easily be used to market it in a very powerful way.  Even today, Lancia is selling in greater absolute numbers than Alfa-Romeo in nearly every market where both brands are available, so obviously the potential is there if the right products are offered.

Billions have been earmarked for Alfa-Romeo’s revival and the trickle of information that we have been given indicates that it is on the right path – innovative, light-weight, sporty and rear wheel drive cars.  The catching up that they will have to do in relation to the Germans is formidable. What is curious is that when BMW is moving to front wheel drive products extending down the ladder their model palate, Alfa-Romeo is dumping the MiTo…Let’s wait and see what is on store for us…the 4C is a niche product and can’t be considered as a for-runner of things to come. It’s more of a flag-waiver and keep our notional appetites satiated while we wait for more…

And Fiat? The 500L is making some headway but why oh why this silly 500 branding? This is also leading to some rather amorphous styling which runs counter to Italian design flair expectations.  In another month we will be served the new 500X which in terms of product will be very welcome, but again, shame about the 500 moniker.  In any event its bound to look better than the ‘fugly’ Nissan Juke which despite its ugly duckling looks and practicality of a music box has been a sales hit.

The focus of the brands on the other side of the pond seems to be better concentrated.  Dropping the SRT as a stand alone brand is the right approach. Dodge & SRT go together well.  Leave the two to grow and enhance each other – shame that Dodge was withdrawn from international markets as it could have been well marketed as Americana and American brawn that Ford could not copy as in the psyche of European buyers, Ford is more Fiesta and Focus rather than Mustang Cobra…

So, let’s wait and see…and as for me, a current Lancia owner looking at how I can replace my current car, I’m increasingly looking at German offerings…



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