Lancia will show off its three new rebadged Chrysler products - the Thema (bottom), Voyager (middle) and Flavia Convertible (top) in Frankfurt with the former two due in its showrooms in October.

The run-up to the Frankfurt IAA has seen a mixed bout of news for Lancisti – while the brand will once again show off its mish-mash of rebadged Chrysler Group models in Frankfurt, this time in the lead-up to production, the big news is the confirmation of the dumping of the Flavia sedan, a planned rebadge of the Chrysler 200.

At March’s Geneva Motor Show, two of the most egregious displays were provided by Chrysler’s 200 sedan and convertible, masquerading as ‘concepts’ under the hallowed Lancia Flavia name. Although Lancia emphasised no final decision had been taken to green-light the cars for production, it was admitted that had the response of show-goers been positive, then the cars could be ready for European sale within six months.

However, the financial arguments for selling the 200 as a Lancia have always been dubious at best. The possibility of rebadging the car as a Lancia, to sell as a ‘fleet special’, was originally mooted around 12 months ago, with the less refined 2.4 ‘World Gas Engine’ and automatic gearbox replaced with a drivetrain more suited to Europe – Fiat’s 2.0 MultiJet engine coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox.

But with competition in the European D-segment amongst the stiffest in the entire market, featuring a cavalcade of impressive models out to tempt buyers, this premise was always a non-starter. Industry observers – including Lancia’s own dealers – implicitly understood that selling a revamped version of an average product, under a tarnished badge, would never prove successful – yet it seems Fiat’s management were amongst the last to arrive at this conclusion. According to a report in Automotive News, it was determined the cost of installing the diesel powertrain would have made the car too expensive in the marketplace and unlikely to provide a return on investment.

The quality of the 200, the facelifted Sebring, itself forms a core part of the problem. US motoring journalists have been underwhelmed by the reheated midsize contender, suggesting that at best it is a respectable stepping-stone towards an all-new and, ideally, genuinely competitive replacement, based on Fiat underpinnings and technology. Indeed, at one point, it was reported that Fiat itself had doubts about selling the 200 under the Lancia name, worried that it would not match the marque’s traditionally high standards, and that consideration was being given to selling it under the Fiat name instead as a replacement for the Croma.

With the sedan’s cancellation, however, attention is now focused on the prospect of selling the convertible with an unchanged powertrain to that it is offered with in the US – the WGE powerplant, hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission. This approach has the advantage of saving the cost of re-engineering the engine bay. However, with Europe’s focus on CO2-based taxation and relatively expensive fuel, a large-capacity petrol convertible – especially an unremarkable one being sold as under the Lancia nameplate against established German competitors – is effectively assured of smalller sales figures. Given this, it seems surprising that Fiat is prepared to commit the level of investment necessary to homologate only the convertible for European markets. The expense of this procedure should not be underestimated – earlier this year, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said the simple cost of engineering the 200’s headlamps to European standards was around $15-20 million.

Nevertheless, it seems the decision to green-light the convertible as a Lancia has been made, and to this end, the Lancia stand will have a Flavia Cabrio on display, featuring three-layer white paint and a leather interior. It is fitted for the occasion with the 175 hp 2.4 four-cylinder engine, mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. (As yet, it remains unclear whether the production model will also offer the option of the vastly-superior, but significantly thirstier, 3.6-litre Pentastar V6.) 

Also lining up on the brand’s stand is its hoped-for flagship model, the Thema – a rebadged version of Chrysler’s freshly-facelifted 300 sedan. The ostensible replacement for the Thesis luxury saloon will go on sale from October across Lancia’s European dealer network. The Thema will be available in the showrooms in three trim levels – Gold, Platinum and Executive – with two engines: the 286 hp 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 in conjunction with a standard 8-speed ZF automatic gearbox, and the VM 630 3.0 V6 diesel in two states of tune (190 hp and 239 hp), both offered only with the ageing Daimler-Benz five-speed automatic.

Chrysler’s Voyager, meanwhile, replaces the outgoing Phedra (built as part of a joint venture with PSA Peugeot-Citroën) as Lancia’s full-size MPV contender. It gains a Lancia badge but retains the Voyager name. One example will be shown on the stand in Frankfurt, in the ‘Gold’ trim level. Unfortunately, the Lancia-sold Voyager retains VM Motori’s 163 hp 2.8 turbodiesel engine, a unit not held in high regard, which will make the task of convincing consumers of its merits much more difficult. The Frankfurt Motor Show example will have an exterior in ‘Dark Charcoal’, while the interior will feature leather upholstery, entertainment system with DVD players mounted on the second and third rows, navigation system, keyless entry and rear back-up camera. On sale from October in the European dealerships, the Lancia Voyager will be available in the Gold trim level and with two engines: the 287 hp 3.6-litre V6 petrol with automatic 6-speed gearbox and the 2.8-litre four-cylinder VM diesel, also with a six-speed gearbox.

As in Geneva, the slew of rebadged Chrysler products and the mixed reactions they have garnered from onlookers takes focus away from the new-generation Ypsilon, which went on sale in Italy in June. The ‘mini flagship’ will be displayed in Frankfurt in three versions – a 69 hp 1.2 in Gold trim, and two versions (Gold and Platinum) equipped with the innovative 85 hp 0.9-litre TwinAir. Starting in September, the new Ypsilon will also be sold under the Chrysler brand in Great Britain and Ireland.

The C-segment Delta will also be shown in Frankfurt. Now sporting a generic Lancia/Chrysler front grille for MY2011, it gets a new version equipped with the 120 hp Euro 5 bi-fuel 1.4 Turbo Jet engine, offered on all European markets in three different trim levels (Steel, Silver and Gold). Completing the line-up in Frankfurt is the ageing Musa. It is still selling in decent numbers in Italy but won’t be replaced in the range as the new Ypsilon, for the first time in 5-door format, aims to cover its base. The model on display will be a 95 hp Platinum 1.4 16V with Start&Stop technology, finished in two-tone paint (Angelico White/Masaccio Black).

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