Originality is a term that is typically bandied about in moderation when it comes to the automotive industry. Witness the “re-badging” of the Chrysler 200 convertible, notes the Detroit Free Press. In June, the latest in the line will roll out in Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Austria and Sweden – as the Lancia Flavia, a Fiat luxury brand. There is little change, other than in name and logo.
What’s in a Lancia Flavia?
The Lancia Flavia is billed as a well-equipped version of the Chrysler 200. The Lancia triangle logo goes in place of the round Chrysler emblem on the trunk and front grille. The interior of the vehicle is sufficiently luxurious to merit the Flavia’s status as a luxury vehicle. Yet the price is nearly double that of the Chrysler 200; the Lancia Flavia will start at $52,750.
Lancia borrowing from the Chrysler playbook
The upcoming Lancia Flavia is the latest in a line of vehicles that intentionally borrow and expand upon various Fiat and Chrysler model lines from the U.S. and Europe. “Re-badged” versions of the Chrysler 300 sedan and Town & Country minivan hit European dealerships last year, notes the Free Press.
“Without Chrysler, Lancia wouldn’t have these models,” said Pierluigi Bellini, director of Italian auto industry market forecast and research company IHS Automotive. “Fiat’s acquisition of Chrysler gives Lancia vehicles from midsize up. It needs to be in those segments to be a credible luxury brand.”
Lancia has currency, particularly in Italy
Lancia sells approximately 100,000 vehicles each year, and 85 percent of those are purchased in Italy, where the brand’s luxury stylings and history in racing have earned it a fair share of notoriety. Lancia’s consumer offerings have been small cars based upon Fiat models, largely because small car production is cheaper.
“In the past, Lancias were bigger luxury cars,” Bellini said. “For the last 15 years, they’ve only had compacts, because that’s all Fiat built.”
Fiat re-badges Dodge Journey
Lancia isn’t the only European automaker with designs on re-badging U.S. models like the Chrysler 200. Fiat had success with European sales of the fuel-efficient diesel Freemont, which took the basic design of the Dodge Journey crossover SUV. In the second half of 2011, Fiat sold 29,138 Freemonts in Europe, nearly 53 percent of the Dodge Journey’s U.S. sales total for the entire year. That stirring success has proven to automakers like Fiat and Lancia that there’s a profit in creative borrowing.
“Not even Fiat expected to sell that many Freemonts,” Bellini said. “It was a good combination: The diesel engines Fiat does well and the larger vehicles Chrysler builds.”
‘Imported from Detroit’ back scratching
U.S.-based critics who balk at the “Imported from Detroit” campaign – as most Chrysler vehicles are not built in Detroit – should be appeased by the fact that Chrysler will be building Fiat’s Maserati brand on Jefferson Avenue in east Detroit, notes the Free Press.