The death of an automotive manufacturer usually comes in one of two ways. The likes of Duesenberg, Marcos and TVR, all stayed true to their core values right to the very end. Their final efforts just as desirable as their first. Sadly however, it’s far more common for a manufacturer to fizzle out with a whimper. Look at Rover for example. Once the brand of choice for the UK prime minister with the Jaguar rivalling P5 and then domination of the BTCC followed with Andy Rouse behind the wheel of the thundering SD1. It was with abominations like the City Rover however, that would ultimately see the end to over a century of manufacturing.
This brings us to Lancia. Unless something drastic is done soon, they’re heading for the same fate. Once one of motorsports greatest and most evocative names, the Italian marque is currently rotting away at the fringes of the multinational company Stellantis. They have no rally team, no sports car program and nothing that anyone familiar with their history, would identify as a Lancia.
I’m not here to tell you about the glory days of the company, you likely know that all too well or if you don’t, there’s plenty of literature that covers that topic far better than I can in a few paragraphs. What I am here to remind you, is that the most successful manufacturer in WRC history, should not have a one car lineup consisting of a super mini. A badge engineered car that’s nothing but a restyled Fiat 500, is hardly fitting the heritage of the company that brought us the Stratos.
An all new ICE lineup?
The Stellantis group need to mark out a clear long term plan for Lancia, ideally get it making interesting cars again and back into the WRC. Considering the current climate that could go one of two ways. The days of the internal combustion engine are numbered, meaning a major relaunch of a brand that’s known for fire breathing monsters, would be like pouring your life savings into the Lehman Brothers circa 2008. On the other hand, a completely fresh start could work in their favour and go some way to throwing off the shackles of its abuse since the late 90s. Look at the resurgence of Toyota making interesting ICE cars again. The GR86, GR Yaris and Supra are all a last hurrah to cement a legacy before electricity is forced upon us. Could Lancia tap into this race to the internal combustion finale and set themselves up for the future?
Is electric the way to go?
How many people would get excited at the prospect of an all new electric Lancia? More importantly, how many people would be willing to put down the cash for one? That’s up for debate. Personally I just don’t believe a sports car can be silent, you take away the noise and the vibrations of a characterful engine and that’s two senses that aren’t being stimulated. Even if you’re ok with letting the noise go, you run into the problem of weight and it’s negative effect on handling. Fine on the current Ypsilon but the absolute enemy of driving dynamics on something like a new Delta, Stratos or 037.
Restomods and parts supplier
So, turning the company electric or bringing out an all new petrol range are both costly and risky scenarios, ones which, with bigger fish to fry, Stellantis will likely not bother perusing. There is a third option. Lancia shift their focus to the ever growing restomod market. Offer official manufacturer backed improvements and restorations on existing cars and start stocking and selling a belt and braces, genuine new parts for their whole back catalogue. Anything from complete reshells to hard to find gaskets and trim pieces. If this doesn’t sound very profitable then ask yourself, how much does the Ypsilon really generate? I think it could be a fantastic opportunity to save Lancia’s reputation and help keep the well loved older cars on the road for future generations to enjoy.
If all else fails
Finally, if those three options won’t work, then kill it. Stop the awful suffering of the greatest WRC team in history and let’s remember Lancia for over a century of automotive genius.
What’s your thoughts on the current state of Lancia? Which of the options I’ve put forward would you most like to see or have you got a better idea?