Lancia is present at the Frankfurt motor show this week with a large collection of its cars, headlined by the debut of the restyled Musa, and the 'luxury' brand was introduced to the media on Tuesday by brand CEO Olivier François.

It is exactly two years since François arrived at Lancia from his position as CEO of Citroën Italia and he kicked off a well attended press conference by stressing this fact. Looking more relaxed than he has done during the last two years he was keen to emphasise the anniversary thrown up at the IAA. "I would like to review where we are with respect to Frankfurt two years ago," he said. "It is quite an emotion to be with you today on the Lancia stand because I spent my very first day in the Fiat Group right here in Frankfurt in September 2005."

François can lay claim a job pretty well done so far. Despite loosing the Lybra early last year in a key segment where Lancia has always prided itself on being much more than a niche player, sales have risen, although the brand having effectively a two model line-up, the Ypsilon and Musa. Its other two models, the large, luxurious Thesis saloon and the Phedra MPV, only sell at a trickle and form just a small part of Lancia's future strategy.

Lancia has trailed well behind Fiat, Fiat professional and Alfa Romeo in the planning and investments decreed by Fiat's top management; however Lancia's sales are buoyant - and rising - although the brand is heavily reliant on its home market, where it has worked hard to build a solid base. Fiat's ambitious CEO Sergio Marchionne has set the brand the target of reaching 300,000 unit sales by 2010 - a tough target and one that will need an awful lot of hard work to achieve.

François has spent the last two years putting a strategy in place: "we have worked on four specific areas," he says, "our first action concerns repositioning of our brand. We believe that today the brand, style and character positioning, is with both Lancia's historical past and what we seek to achieve in the future. You will have noted that over the past year our image has redesigned, coordinated and imbued with all the brand's aspects and affinities, starting with the product and new logo, and taking in communication and below the line promotions.

"Our second area for action involves strengthening sales in our domestic Italian market," François continued. "Between January and August this year we sold more than 75,000 cars in Italy, 4.3 percent of the market, and an increase of 8 percent in volumes. It was the best first half since 2001, the Ypsilon and Musa are the market leader in their respective segments: the Ypsilon is the biggest selling 3-door car on the market and the Musa is the biggest-selling MPV. Three out of four models are growing," he continued, "Ypsilon, Musa and Thesis. Last month in August in Italy was our best month in terms of volumes since 2000.

So everything on target in Italy, and on to the third 'action area' - Europe. And a tough nut for Lancia to crack. "We are growing in 8 of the 11 main markets where we are present," said François. "For example in France where we have been particularly active we have increased sales by 23 percent.


Lancia CEO Olivier François (top) focused on four 'action areas' for Lancia in the two years since he took over steering the century old brand's fortunes during the press conference in Frankfurt this week.


Lancia is present at the Frankfurt motor show this week with a large collection of its cars, headlined by the debut of the restyled Musa, and the 'luxury' brand was introduced to the media on Tuesday by brand CEO Olivier François.

"In Germany, as we all know the market is down by 9 percent, Lancia posted a 5 percent increase in the first half, and we intend to maintain this trend over the rest of the year. In these markets we are operating a dealer assessment, training a recruitment programme," he added, saying that "we are laying the groundwork for future Lancia models." On top of this Lancia will be rolling out a new dealer network in Scandinavia as well as the right hand drive markets it surrendered up a decade and a half ago.

And that led him neatly into his fourth key area for attention - product. François reconfirmed that the Delta is on course to arrive on the market next summer: "Our future product plans will debut with the much-awaited new delta," he told the press in Frankfurt. "It is too early to talk about this in detail but I can tell you that the deadlines have been respected and the car styling has been frozen. the official launch will be over the summer of 2008 as planned."

The Ypsilon is Lancia's biggest seller - its saviour during the dark year of the early art of this decade - and it continues to be the choice of many motorists in with sales up this year, strengthened thanks to the facelift version introduced almost exactly a year ago. Giving such a well regarded and individual shape a makeover was always going to be tough, but the designers in Turin seem to have got it right. Star turns on the Lancia stand from this popular family include a bright yellow 'MomoDesign' version, and the more powerful 1.3 Multijet 16v engine option.

In Frankfurt this week though is the turn of the Musa to benefit from a facelift, which sees it improved from both a styling makeover and more practicality. "The Musa has been Lancia's other recent success story outselling the Fiat Idea on which it is based in its home market and providing the brand with a decent per unit profit as most registrations of this comfortable people lugger are well spec'd up my customers. "The evolution of the Musa has meant working on one hand on its design and on the other its features," said François. "It is best in class in terms of capacity and therefore in terms of satisfaction that is shared by all the many customers."

On the Lancia stand this week there are three Musas with one mounted on a large revolving turntable centre stage while the other two are positioned to be available for close up examination. Joining the Musa and Ypsilon on the stand is the almost forgotten thesis, which is again being show in the 'Sport' specification which includes bi-color paintwork, while the unique bicycle, first show in Geneva and now on sale, is also in attendance.

by Edd Ellison

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Lancia will be present at the 62nd Frankfurt Motor Show with a stand full of stylistic and architectural appeal, in shades of black and white and led out by the new Musa and Ypsilon Sport MomoDesign

Photos © 2007 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed