Recently, I shared a post discussing the potential effects of the merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Groupe PSA. Once the ink dries on their merger agreement, the new conglomerate would care for 15 individual car brands, with 400,000 workers toiling away at its manufactories.
While the true consequences of their merger is yet to be known, there is a surety, that it would contribute to changes in how the company would soon design, engineer, and build their cars.
There is potential then, that we could see some boring, or wonderful cars in the near future. For myself, and certainly @heroldius, there is but one company's destiny that keeps us awake at night - Lancia.
Possible return of Fiat's underdog - Lancia.
Lancia was an industrial icon, known for its innovative approach to building cars, and the legacy it holds in motorsports history. For enthusiasts, we recognise Lancia as a hero, for building approachable and charming performance cars for true drivers, to match even the fastest of exotic Ferraris.
However, in the last couple of decades, Lancia has been considered the black sheep of the Fiat family stable. Now, they've been consigned to making ONE rebadged economy car - the Ypsilon. Fiat's bigwigs, and in particular the late Sergio Marchionne, have ensured that stays true.
In my last post, I expressed my fear, that considering the cost cutting measures which is likely to happen once the merger completes, it could ring the death knell for Lancia. However just today, a Reuters report came to my attention, and it brought some calming news.
It was reported, that Mr. Carlos Tavares, soon to be CEO of FCA-PSA, has no intentions to get rid of any car brands post merger. I can't described my joy hearing that, knowing there's a greater chance now, for Lancia to survive. And it's worth noting as well, that Mr. Tavares is known for his cost cutting.
“As of today, I don’t see any need to scrap any of the brands if the deal came to pass. They all have their history and their strengths.”
Carlos Tavares, CEO of Groupe PSA
Now, I have some free reign to speculate, and hope, as to what Lancia could be up to next, considering a new tie-up with PSA would mean access to sharing parts and research between the French and Italians.
Not so mini now, eh?
FCA announced only recently, that they would be leaving the "supermini" segment, due to safety and emissions regulations, and to focus instead on larger subcompact cars. Fans of the beloved 500 shouldn't worry, as FCA plans to sell a refreshed electric-only 500 starting in 2020.
However, the future remains uncertain for their other small cars, such as the aging Fiat Panda. It's clear that FCA wants to compete with more popular, and profitable cars such as the Volkswagen Polo. Now that there is room for a new car to be presented in Fiat's line-up, Lancia could move in instead.
In fact, looking at the past, there is one Lancia that could fit this segment well - the Delta. If FCA wants to focus on larger subcompacts, now would be a good time to relaunch a 4th generation Lancia Delta. It fits well into this segment, and even has a degree of modularity that corporate bosses would like to milk out of.
A selection of Deltas with various trims and specs; from a basic and approachable economy car for small families, all the way to a souped-up hot hatch. This is where PSA comes in for the rescue, considering its strong and popular line-up of subcompacts.
Furthermore, with PSA's continued and strong involvement in the world of rallying, a new Delta Integrale wouldn't be a far fetched idea either, as their engineers have a strong hand in making world-class rally cars.
Off the road again.
Going off another tangent, there is one type of vehicle that is becoming more and more popular today, and that is the SUV, particularly subcompact SUVS. Now, imagine combining FCA, with their ownership of Jeep; and PSA, with their good lineup of small cars.
The result would be a compact, but capable 4x4. This again, fits well with Lancia's strengths with making small AWD cars, as evident with the Delta Integrale. This could be another take on reviving the Delta name.
Visualise then; a PSA subcompact platform, taken from either Peugeot, Citroën, or Opel/Vauxhall; then combined with Jeep's superb 4x4 capabilities, maybe borrowed from the small Renegade.
Whatever you think about SUVs, consider this; Alfa Romeo has shown that SUVs can be made to be fun and practical with the Stelvio (and soon the Tonale). If Lancia could put some of their old school charm, then a good-selling small SUV could further convince their overlords at Fiat to branch the brand out further.
Moving into the fast lane.
For the last item on my wishlist, I want something a bit livelier than a hatchback, or SUV. There is one segment in the FCA-PSA family that will soon be vacant; and that is a mid-engined sports car. The only car that fits the bill currently, is the Alfa Romeo 4C.
But even that lovely piece of machinery will soon go away, and without an encore; as its would-be successors, the 8C and GTV have been shelved. All of the 4C's variants are now discontinued from production, and what remaining units left available will soon be sold out.
This presents as a wonderful opportunity for FCA-PSA to really show off their stuff in front of the world. Sports cars are difficult to design and engineer, and any success can change people's perception towards the brand. Look at how Ford has managed that with the GT.
Furthermore, Renault did just that recently, with the relaunch of the Alpine brand, and with it the A110. Not only have they managed to paid homage to the legacy of Alpine, they made a pretty great driver's car in the process, with a lightweight and well-balanced body and modest horsepower.
For a quick reminder; PSA has great commitment into the world of rallying (Lancia's former battle grounds); and FCA has their fare share of making great sports cars, with Alfa Romeo, Maserati, formerly Ferrari, and Fiat's own 124 Spider (shared with the MX-5 Miata).
So imagine that now, the return of Lancia could be culminated by the creation of a new, affordably priced, mid-engined sports car, that can trade punches with Porsche's 718 and Alpine's A110 any day of the week.
Fun fact: Lancia's elephant was supposed to be a symbol of longevity, strength, prosperity and victory. Personally, I'd like to think of it as a symbol of Lancia's prowess in rally, since an elephant's 4 knees makes them very capable off-road :-)
“Yes, but once an elephant starts running nothing can stop it.”
Gianni Lancia, when asked by his staff as to why he chose an elephant.