I've always liked non-mainstream practical, comfortable cars with just a bit of wierdness and quirkiness thrown in to keep the interest alive; Citroen XM, SAABs, original Fiat 500, Mirafiori etc. but mostly medium-sized roomy hatchbacks like the Citroen ZX.
So you can imagine my excitement after reading Gavin Green's feature in CAR way back in August 2008 on the new Lancia Delta. Quality finish, bags of comfort, a great looking rear-end and the wierd expression on the Vanden-Plas Allegro-sized chrome grille like the inane grin of a Hollywood psycho. It looked refreshingly different from soul-less hatches, gaping-gob Audis and Peugeots and those dreadful-looking Far-Eastern efforts.
So when Fiat changed its mind about re-launching the historic Lancia name in the UK with the new Delta, I became quite distraught. Instead it's for sale under a badge of convenience as a Chrysler, but I think they've definitely missed a trick and will lose sales to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
One of the reasons suggested for not re-launching Lancia in the UK goes back to the 1980s disaster of relatively new Lancias rotting away. This tarnished the reputation of this luxury small car maker so much that they left a traditionally very important UK market under a cloud of rust particles. But then Alfas and Fiats were just as bad, and a few years before most Japanese cars suffered terribly with rust, but now in 2012 it's all been forgotten.
Despite being the fattest and scruffiest nation in Western Europe, we British seem obsessed with all things Italian. Whether its coffee and designer sandwiches, fashionable clobber, handbags or the Fiat 500 - we just can't get enough of Italian style .
But now that everyone and his dog has bought a Fiat 500, the model no longer offers the chique appeal it once had and dedicated Italia-philes are desperately seeking alternative designer delights in the automotive world. The 500 clone that is the new Ypsilon clearly ticks the right style-icon box, as does the Delta if extra space is needed, but only if they are Lancias, not Chryslers.
For most people the name 'Chrysler' conjures up images of the 70s Avenger and lumbering 180 saloons and the late-90s Neon which were all so average and instantly forgetable. So badging these two new Lancias as Chryslers is a bit like a down-at-heel tenor having to scratch a living by singing in a country & western band. Unfortunately the good people of Chiswick and Putney don't rush out to buy Kenny Rogers or Dolly Parton albums, but they'll always listen to Pavarotti.
So my advice to Fiat would be to re-launch the Delta and Ypsilon into the UK again, but this time both cars should bear the Lancia name. The history and reputation of Lancia going back many years before Rustgate is a heritage they should be proud of, and they really should exploit it. Mark my words there will be a queue of Italian-loving British buyers around the block to buy the latest in chique but affordable Italian style and both cars deserve to wear the Lancia badge of honour.
The only good thing about having a Chrysler-badged Delta is that there are quite a few low-mileage ex-demo models on sale relatively cheaply from main dealers (see e-Bay), so then all you need are the Lancia badges.
NB. I'm talking nonsense of course, total crap even some might say. Since writing this I've looked at the depreciation of possibly the most attractive of all 'normal' Italian cars, Alfa Romeo, and their values plummet faster than a 1987 FSO Polonez in 1988. Despite the heritage, pedigree and style it would appear that we don't have much faith in the longevity and reliability of even Alfa Romeos, which doesn't bode well for bog standard Fiats, or, if they were sold over here again, Lancias. So badging them as Chryslers isn't such a daft thing after all.