It seems like a distant memory: Fiat imports its products to the United States, but the cars see few buyers in the new market. Today the tables are turned: imported Chrysler products, badged as Fiats and Lancias, are met with mixed success in Europe.
Chrysler currently makes four models in North America that are stamped with Italian brand names and sent overseas: the Fiat Freemont, based on the Dodge Journey; the Lancia Thema, based on the Chrysler 300; the Lancia Flavia, based on the Chrysler 200 convertible; and the Lancia Voyager, based on the Chrysler Town and Country.
The Freemont, for one, is looking to be a success. Early sales goals/predictions for the model were 30,000 units a year, and the first quarter sales figure was 6498 units according to Automotive News, about 1000 units shy of the first milestone. If Freemont sales continue to be brisk, Fiat looks to hit that goal.
If Fiat's having success on both sides of the Atlantic, the success is only convincing on one side of the ocean for Lancia. Sales of the Chrysler 300 in the United States are up 221 percent so far this year (to 27,729 sales), but the rebadged Lancia Thema has only sold 480 units in Europe year-to-date, and is on track to sell just 2400 in all of 2012. Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has set a 10,000-unit target for the model.
Likewise, the Chrysler Town and Country is a success in the States--where sales are up 18 percent to 38,507 year-to-date--but the equivalent figure of Lancia Voyagers is 1342, despite an 11,000-unit target. Figures on the Lancia Flavia aren't yet available, as the model only went on sale in March in most European markets.
Analysts say there are a couple of things to blame for these results – at least in Italy. On one hand, cars with more than 252 horsepower are assessed a 500-euro luxury tax in Italy, and similar displacement/CO2-based taxes are spread throughout Europe. The Thema and Voyager are both available with the Pentastar V-6 gasoline engine, which makes about 280 horsepower. While both are available with 181-horsepower diesel engines, they're still expensive luxuries for citizens of austerity-strapped countries. It doesn't help, also, that Lancias are relatively unknown--the brand was selling a handful of models before the Chryslers came--and the brand has a smaller dealer network than Fiat.
Source: Automotive News (subscription required), Chrysler