By Andrew Ganz
Friday, Nov 2nd, 2012 @ 3:01 pm
 

Fiat will drastically reorganize its product portfolio in the near future, refocusing its core Fiat division and potentially killing off its storied Lancia, the automaker said today.

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, one of the industry's most outspoken executives, indicated to reporters on a conference call that the Lancia-Chrysler integration experiment has not succeeded. Although Marchionne's statements were intentionally obtuse, those familiar with the company's plans have suggested that Lancia will be pared down to just a handful of models probably marketed only in Italy. Another report from Germany's Automobilwoche states that Lancia will be closed down entirely.

Currently, Lancia's lineup consists of two homegrown models and a trio of rebadged, North American-sourced Chryslers.

Downplaying the German publication's statement that Lancia will die off, Autocar interpreted Fiat and Marchionne's remarks as Fiat planning to return Lancia to its two European-oriented models before eventually downsizing the brand's market reach to just Italy. Until official word emerges from Fiat, it's difficult to determine exactly what fate awaits Lancia.

As for the rest of the brands under Fiat's umbrella, the Marchionne was similarly obtuse, although a number of hints can be dissected from both today's report and an earlier 2013-2014 plan presented to the company's unions. Notably, the automaker will retool two of its Italian plants to build a number of new models.

Fiat: Pared down, more focused
The automaker's namesake division's future is staked on two models: The ever-expanding 500 line and the Panda. These two facts have long been obvious since Fiat derives relatively few sales from its Bravo and Punto compact and subcompact models.

Any plans the automaker had for models larger than the Volkswagen Golf have apparently been shelved.The Panda supermini will serve as Fiat's volume, mainstream model, while the 500 range will continue to grow. Fiat is committed to the 500 because its premium positioning commands higher prices than mass-market rivals, even in debt crisis-saddled Europe.

Alfa Romeo and Maserati: Moving upscale
The brand that sparked Enzo Ferrari's racing career has had a particularly muddy lineup, but Fiat says it is committed to building it as an upmarket, global division once again.

With just two models - the MiTo and the Giulietta - Alfa Romeo doesn't have much of a lineup at the moment, but Marchionne says the brand will grow globally, using the upcoming 4C performance car as its halo model.

Reuters reports that a new flagship sedan designed with American buyers in mind will be built in Turin, while a compact Giulia sedan sized about like the BMW 3-Series will be sourced from a plant in Cassino, Italy, between Rome and Naples.

Maserati, meanwhile, has proven to be a surprising success for Fiat. A new Jeep Grand Cherokee-based Levante SUV will be built near Turin and it is this Porsche Cayenne-rivally model that is expected to truly grow Maserati into a mainstream premium brand.