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Lancia lops global gallop

Delta blow: Italian brand's newest and biggest model won't make the UK - or other right-hand drive markets including Australia - during the "current global economic crisis".

Fiat cans plans for a right-hook Delta, ending hopes of a revival globally and in Oz

8 Dec 2008

ANY chance of the Lancia brand returning to Australia in the foreseeable future appears to have evaporated with news out of the UK that proposed right-hand drive production has been postponed indefinitely due to the recession.

Lancia was to have started RHD production early next year of its Delta HPE luxury sedan, which would have been the first right-hooker from the Italian car-maker since 1994.

A spokesman for Ateco Automotive – the Sydney-based Fiat Group importer that has first right of refusal on bringing Lancia to Australia – said that the company had no plans to sell the new Lancia Delta here and was therefore unconcerned about the UK news.

“For us to consider any brand (for Australia), it has to have a viable range of product and Lancia is years away from having a viable range of right-hand drive vehicles,” said Ateco public relations manager Edward Rowe.

Lancia unveiled the Delta two years ago, filling a large gap in the luxury car brand’s line-up between the popular Ypsilon small car and the Alfa Romeo 156-based Lybra sedan that had existed since the previous Delta disappeared seven years earlier.

The next-generation Ypsilon is expected to be launched globally in 2010, but its future in RHD form is uncertain in the current economic climate.

Although the Delta was to have spearheaded Lancia’s return to the UK market after a 15-year absence, its distinctive styling alienated many of the brand’s long-suffering fans, who appear to have greeted the latest news with relief rather than disappointment.

Parent company Fiat Auto announced the news in a brief statement published late last week by British magazine Autocar.

“Given the current global economic crisis, Fiat Auto has taken the decision to delay the reintroduction of the Lancia brand in right-hand-drive markets beyond 2009,” said the statement.

The magazine quoted a Fiat UK insider as saying that, while no revised schedule was in place, the company would continue to lay the groundwork for a potential Lancia dealer network.

The source added that the Delta HPE, which would have been priced at around $50,000 in the UK, was the wrong car for the moment, so relaunching the Lancia brand with it “just wouldn’t make sense”.

He did not say if the Lancia relaunch could now be rescheduled to coincide with the next-generation Ypsilon.

Read more:

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