Lancia Thema Will Be Chrysler 300-Based
Lancia plans to debut a Chrysler-based flagship and a new Ypsilon at the Geneva auto show in March. The Ypsilon is crucial if Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne's plan to raise sales is to succeed.
The Lancia flagship will be a rebadged Chrysler 300 , most likely to be called the Thema, a name that was last used by Lancia in the '80s and '90s. Lancia hopes the Thema will hike its brand image, but not as a volume seller, with annual sales forecast between 10,000 and 15,000.
The Thema will go on sale in mid 2011, as a Lancia in mainland Europe and as a Chrysler in the UK and Ireland, where Lancia is not available as a brand. The Lancia will have Euro-spec bumpers and a different grille. It will offer the same gas engines as the Chrysler, but most of the Thema sales are expected to be brought by a version with a new 230 horsepower 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel engine built in Italy.
The Thema and 300 sedans will be built at Chrysler's factory in Brampton in Ontario, Canada. The 300 is scheduled to debut in January at the Detroit auto show and will go on sale in North America in the first quarter. Fiat now controls Chrysler with a 20 percent stake in the US carmaker and is integrating Lancia with Chrysler.
“All new Chryslers developed after the union with Lancia will have superb European handling. They will convey a real sense of feel for the road,” said Olivier Francois, Chrysler/Lancia CEO said at the Paris auto show in October.
Lancia will also add a five-door Fiat Panda-based replacement for the Ypsilon, which has driven the brand's sales for the last couple of years. The new Ypsilon will go on sale in June.
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In short, the Italian brand Lancia is in the same idiom as Mercedes, BMW, and Audi, while Chrysler is virtually parallel with Buick, Chevrolet, Opel, partly with Volvo and Saab.
Hardware is impeccable, but her image is not on par with formidable European prestigeous marques-that's the Achilles heel of the Lancia Thema/Chrysler 300C siblings.