Lancia has been stuck in limbo for the past couple of years. In 2014, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) boss Sergio Marchionne admitted his team had curtailed ambitions for the cadaverous firm. He also warned he would say things that would hurt “old Lancia people.” Last year, the brand retreated to its home country of Italy when it took its European sites offline. We haven’t heard much about its future since, but a recent report suggests it’s not quite dead yet.
“Speaking of brands, Marchionne has also floated the possibility of selling Lancia,” Italian website AlVolante recently wrote after attending a press conference. “The important thing [for FCA] is to earn money, not lose it,” the publication quoted Marchionne as saying.
So, what happens next? Your guess is as good as ours, but it’s not difficult to speculate an outcome.
While we don’t know how much Lancia is worth, it’s not exactly the hottest name in the automotive industry right now. Selling it will be easier said than done, like trying to find a new owner for a rusty, worn-out base-model Thema missing its cylinder head and its rear axle. Remember Saab? General Motors had a difficult time selling the brand even though it was a better-known company with a bigger global presence (both in terms of sales and of manufacturing) and, arguably, a better overall image.
We can’t imagine the Renault-Nissan Alliance buying Lancia. Volkswagen? We doubt it; 15 years ago it might have worked but today decision-makers in Wolfsburg want to divest, not invest. PSA? Carlos Tavares has an itchy trigger finger but he already has his hands full with the Opel-Vauxhall take-over. Ford has Lincoln, America’s equivalent to Lancia, to worry about.
The major Japanese auto-makers don’t need Lancia because they operate their own luxury brands, and South Korea’s Hyundai recently spun off Genesis for that very reason. That leaves us with the Chinese, who have demonstrated they’re willing to go to surprising lengths (e.g., exhuming the corpse of Borgward) to buy into the European market.
Marchionne will present FCA’s five-year business plan during a presentation scheduled for June 1st. We’ll keep an ear out for Lancia news and report back if we hear anything worthwhile.