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
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.