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.