Lancia Ypsilon, from Batch's column in CD 192Lancia Ypsilon, from Batch's column in CD 192


Opinion: Why bringing back Lancia would be one nostalgic brand too far

Car Dealer’s associate editor fears Stellantis is on to a bad thing with bringing back the Lancia

Time 7:33 am, March 2, 2024

That automotive powerhouse Stellantis is injecting some life back into one of the most charismatic brands in its arsenal – Lancia.

You may have seen a few headlines recently about the firm launching a new model, and in a surprising move Stellantis hasn’t said one word about Lancia returning to the UK.

To be clear, it hasn’t said yes, but it most certainly hasn’t said that it’s quashed the idea.

But even I, as a fan of old historic car names, believe Lancia returning to the UK is a step too far.

There’s no doubt Lancia is a name that tugs on the heartstrings.

It was founded in a manner that would be unheard of now but in the early days of motoring was commonplace.

Vincenzo Lancia and his friend Claudio were colleagues at Fiat and thought they could make cars too. So, in 1906, they laid down the firm and built their first car a year later.

Over the years, the company has built some of Italy’s finest cars – and arguably some of its worst.

Lancia upped sticks and stopped selling cars in the UK 30 years ago this year, licking its wounds from miserable sales figures and a lingering reputation of building rust-riddled cars in the 1970s.

Petrolheads mourned while everyone else carried on buying Fords and Volkswagens.

Since then, though, Lancia has boomed in its home market.

It now only builds one car – based on a stretched Fiat 500 platform, the Ypsilon has been around for 13 years and was even available in the UK around a decade ago wearing a Chrysler badge as part of an utterly bizarre rebadging exercise.

Despite its age, the Ypsilon is still a huge sales hit in Italy, ranking third in the country’s best-selling cars chart last year.

Stellantis wants to relaunch the Lancia name and views it as a shining diamond in its premium range of brands.

It’s starting this reinvigoration with a new Ypsilon to replace the still stylish, but pensionable, current car.

It wears the new face of the brand with slim LED daytime running lights, while the large and circular rear lights are a nod to the ’70s Stratos. There’s even a table jutting out of the dashboard for some unfathomable reason.

It’s sure to be a money spinner for Stellantis, too, as under the svelte body lies the basic ingredients of the Vauxhall Corsa Electric and Peugeot E-208.

What’s the point?

But here’s why I don’t want Lancia to come back to the UK…

It may well be profitable but is a small, probably overpriced, electric car surely what a brand such as Lancia deserves?

Where are the big, comfy saloons? The dainty convertibles? The fire-breathing rally cars? If Stellantis can’t provide those, then what’s the point?

That may sound idiotic as there is no way Stellantis or any global carmaker could finance models such as that, but then you have to question what is the role of Lancia?

If it’s to sell a sporty Italian lifestyle then you only have to look at Alfa Romeo to realise it’s a tough sell in Britain.

If it’s to market something that’s vaguely upmarket and distinctive, the struggles of DS Automobiles should be a warning bell.

Stellantis hasn’t exactly got the happiest dealer network in the UK, either, and asking it to make showroom space for yet another brand could be a step too far.

Then there’s the question of brand values.

The people who remember Lancia for building cars with a rot problem wouldn’t likely buy another in the future, even if we are talking about cars from a generation ago.

And those who have been born in the past 30 years could be difficult to persuade, too. Let’s face it, to the under-30s, Lancia will sound like another unheard-of brand selling electric cars.

As much as it hurts me to say it, Lancia should stay exactly where it is.

This column appears in the current edition of Car Dealer – issue 192 – along with news, reviews, interviews, features and much more! Read and download it for FREE here!

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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