Lan­cia takes a right turn

It’s eas­ier to ex­port un­der the Fiat um­brella, writes NEIL DOWL­ING in Italy

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

AN­OTHER Ital­ian brand is be­ing groomed for mi­gra­tion to Aus­tralia. This time it is Lan­cia. The semi-lux­ury brand has been miss­ing from lo­cal roads for more than 20 years but a re­newed em­pha­sis on right-hand-drive cars will ben­e­fit Aus­tralian buy­ers within three years.

Lan­cia will be the 54th brand in lo­cal show­rooms, though the to­tal will be even higher be­fore 2011 be­cause at least two Chi­nese car­mak­ers are aiming for a lo­cal launch next year.

Lan­cia is shel­tered be­neath the Fiat Group um­brella, which means it is much eas­ier to make a busi­ness case by shar­ing ex­ist­ing re­sources with the Fer­rari-Maserati-Fiat im­porter, Ateco Au­to­mo­tive in Syd­ney.

There are likely to be at least three mod­els in the line-up, from a baby car to a peo­ple-mover. Ateco Au­to­mo­tive is be­ing coy about de­tails — and even shows some hes­i­ta­tion at the prospect of adding Lan­cia to its line-up — but in­di­cates it will need at least three car mod­els to make the brand a starter in Aus­tralia.

Ateco spokesman Ed But­ler says Fiat is keen to see Lan­cia spread po­ten­tial growth once it starts pro­duc­ing its new gen­er­a­tion of right­hand-drive mod­els — firstly aimed at Bri­tish buy­ers — later this year.

‘‘It’s early days. We have to see what mod­els are avail­able and how they can work in Aus­tralia,’’ he says.

The most-likely first Lan­cia is the Delta five-door hatch, which is based heav­ily on the Fiat Ritmo.

The The­sis, a sedan ver­sion of the Delta, may also be added to the Aus­tralian list.

And there is also the multi-seat Phe­dra wagon. Small-bore Lan­cias such as the three-door Yp­silon and five-door Musa may be phys­i­cally too small and a bit costly for Aus­tralia, though they have not been ruled out.

Both have the choice of 1.3-litre tur­bod­iesel and 1.4-litre petrol en­gines in var­i­ous lev­els of tun­ing. The pow­er­plants are the same as those fit­ted to the Fiat 500 and Punto.

Lan­cia may share me­chan­i­cal com­po­nents with Fiat but the name­plate is more up-spec— dare we say, lux­u­ri­ous — and is in­tended to be classier.

That lux­ury in­cludes at­trac­tive leather up­hol­stery but that is at odds with the cur­rent Lan­cia styling that in­cludes an ugly ‘‘cat’s bum’’ cor­po­rate grille.

The Ital­ian brand is be­ing pro­moted heav­ily in Europe and par­tic­u­larly in the UK, as the Fiat Group starts to claw back mar­ket share from French and Ger­man ri­vals.

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