Fiat has been saying for a while now that it will share models between brands, particularly those sold on separate continents. The company took it’s first big step in that direction today rebadging some Dodge and Chrysler models as Fiats and Lancias for European markets.
Most of the models will go to Lancia. As you may have heard, the Chrysler brand is history in Europe and is now merged with Lancia. Chrysler’s former European dealers are all re-opening this June as Lancia dealers, but there will still be Chryslers on the floor, but with Lancia badges on them. They’ll be lead by the new Lancia Thema, a new Chrysler 300 wearing Lancia badges. The name comes from the original 1984 Thema and the badges are about the only update, save some extra leather wrapping on the dash. Only the 3.6-liter V-6 is on offer at the moment and the company did not discuss the V-8. A diesel for Europe is likely on the way.
That’s basically the story across the line. The Chrysler 200 is now the Lancia Flavia and the Town & Country is now the Voyager (don’t tell Plymouth fans). Unlike the deal that turned the Town & Country into a Volkswagen, Lancia gets all of the Chrysler’s features including Stow-n-Go. The Flavia, meanwhile, isn’t exactly a done deal. Lancia said that it’s up to the customers and dealers to decide if they want it. If they do, it can be ready in as little as six months. Like the Thema, 3.6-liter V-6s were under all the hoods and diesels are likely on the way.
Lancia made no excuses for the rebadging. The way the Fiat Group sees it, the Chrysler and Lancia brands need each other, badly, and the product sharing will help both brands grow. Fiat’s hoping to reposition Lancia as a low-priced luxury brand with a wider range of cars and, hopefully, wider appeal across Europe. If you’re one of the few people left who remember what Lancia used to be, you can go back to consoling each other about the loss of its racing heritage. It doesn’t appear poised for a return to those roots.
Rounding out the group is the new Fiat Freemont, a rebadged Dodge Journey. Like the Lancias, the translation has been mostly cosmetic, though Fiat claims they’ve also reset the suspension tuning to European standards. The Freemont will launch in May with two MultiJet diesel engines driving the front wheels only through a six-speed manual transmission. One offers 140 horsepower, the other 170 horsepower. In October, the Freemont gets even less Italian with Chrysler’s Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic and all wheel-drive.
The Group didn’t stop there, though. Lancia also rolled out an updated Ypsilon model and the second generation of the Delta. The Ypsilon (pronounced yoop-sil-on) is now a four-door hatch and is big on fuel economy, if not speed, with an 85-horsepower 0.875-liter TwinAir gasoline engine or a 93-horsepower 1.3-liter MultiJet diesel. The Delta, meanwhile, gets new styling and a 105-horsepower 1.6-liter MultiJet diesel. Why should you care about all of this? Because the Delta is the car that was quickly rebadged as a Chrysler and quietly displayed at the 2010 Detroit show and could be the first vehicle that Lancia shares with Chrysler. Make no mistake, these two brands are now intertwined, for better or for worse.