Lancia will re-enter the UK market in late 2008, and the Delta HPE will spearhead its return. And the range could grow to four models, including a sports car based on the Fulvia concept.
'This is the car we will launch in Europe in spring 2008,' says Olivier François, president of Lancia. 'Later that year right-hand drive production will begin. We are calling it a concept but this is the real car. It will be called Delta HPE in production.'
Lancia will be relaunched as an affordable and unique Italian luxury brand, 'that puts Italian style, glamour and comfort at its heart,' says Mr François. 'As well as the Delta HPE, we will probably also sell right-hand drive versions of the updated Musa [mini MPV], the replacement for the current Ypsilon small car and a niche product that will fit perfectly in the UK market. This would be small volume and a real publicity star.'
François mentioned the Fulvia Coupe concept car – its style was based on the original Fulvia – that attracted much favourable publicity when first shown at the 2003 Frankfurt Show. 'That is the sort of car I’d like to launch,' he said. Lancia’s UK sales target, initially, is for 5000 cars a year, 'but going much higher'.
The dealer network would probably include the best Alfa Romeo dealers, 'but we are looking at all options. My feeling is that we do complement Alfa Romeo very well.'
Lancias would also be sold in other right hand drive markets, including Australia and Japan. The Delta HPE (for High Performance Estate) is based on the platform of the new Fiat Bravo that goes on sale next year. Power comes from a new family of four-cylinder engines, from 120-200bhp.
'The priority was for a spacious and elegant car,' says Frank Stephenson, design boss of Fiat Auto. 'It is 100m longer in wheelbase than the forthcoming Bravo, so it's a lot roomier than the usual car in this class. Rear seat room and trunk space are extremely generous. 'It is also a very striking car. There's a lot of vanilla out there, so we really want a car that stands out. It’s a crucial quality for Lancia.'
Lancia withdrew from the UK market and stopped right-hand drive production just over a decade ago. Sales were poor, partly from an appalling reputation for rust and unreliability.