Fiat of Italy has charged Chrysler with raising sales in Europe, and it is providing these two small cars – the little Lancia Ypsilon city car and VW Golf-sized Lancia Delta – to augment the traditional big American cars like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Chrysler 300C.
Last January, Chrysler said it wanted European sales growth in 2011 of more than 25 per cent, after 2010’s fall of about 20 per cent to 37,000 in Western and Central Europe. This hasn’t been going well, not surprising given the weakness of European car markets. According to IHS Automotive analyst Pierluigi Bellini, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge sales in all of Europe will fall this year to 32,000 from last year’s 41,000, which includes Russia. Sales will slide again next year to 29,000, but start growing in 2013 to 38,000, rise to 55,000 in 2014, and hit 62,000 in 2015, said Milan, Italy-based Bellini.
Despite these weak markets, Fiat launched the new Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Compass in Europe earlier this year. There’s the Grand Voyager too. Later this year will come the Lancia Thema, better known to Americans as the Chrysler 300C. (Lancia is Fiat’s premium brand). The Chrysler 200 may emerge here badged as a Lancia Flavia. Chrysler has also started sending Dodge Journey’s to Europe, rebadged as Fiat Freemonts.
This Fiat cooperation will be a big bonus for Chrysler dealers in Europe as they get small cars for the first time, the Lancia Ypsilon and the Lancia Delta, badged as Chryslers in Britain. Chrysler dealers in mainland Europe forsake their American name for the Lancia moniker, although Jeep is maintained.
The Ypsilon was launched in Italy earlier this year and faces mean competition in the small car sector. Chrysler has decided to move this little car upmarket, adding some features like xenon headlights, luxury leather interiors and a high quality dashboard to woo buyers. The exterior will turn heads too. It gets the full alphabet soup of computerized safety gizmos. There’s a 900 cc two-cylinder gasoline, 1.2 liter gasoline or a 1.3 liter diesel engine. All include Stop-Start. Reflecting this push for luxury, prices are very high by American standards. The base model sells for the equivalent of $16,500, while the top of the range 900 cc version with all the extras costs an eye-watering $24,000 after taxes.
The bigger Delta family car will compete with the Ford Focus as well as the VW Golf. The Delta also brandishes style to attract attention with its daytime running lights and notable rear light treatment. The rear seats slide back to increase trunk space with only two aboard. There are four engines choices from 1.4 to 2.0 liters, gas or diesel. The interiors are sumptuous, as are the prices, from $25,000 for a 1.4 liter gas version to almost $40,000 for the 2.0 liter top of the range, after tax.
Chrysler wouldn’t ruled out sending the Ypsilon or Delta to America at some point, but at these prices they would be of curiosity value only.
Neil Winton – October 20, 2011