What happens when an American icon needs more market share at home, but loses a complete market. You get Lancia branded Chrysler’s and Chrysler branded Lancia’s. This has all happened because of the need for more models within both brands. Lancia has small “B” and “C” segment cars which Chrysler needs and Chrysler
has an entire dealer network, import licenses and a brand new line-up with no-where to go in Europe. So what would any smart auto executive do? They would expand a brand which is already well known and fill holes in another brands line-up. It just makes sense to utilize the best of both brands, to maximize the profit of the whole. The only problem with this plan is the fact that as of now the Lancia-Chrysler relationship includes the full utilization of both brands model lines. This means that a Chrysler 300 will look the exact same as its Italian counterpart the Lancia Thema.
Now we all know what happens when you have the same design in the same market, but when in its two different markets, it may be even worse for each brand. This is a bad idea because most consumers become confused when you use different names in different markets. Take the NSX for instance. It was a Honda everywhere else in the world, but in North America it was an Acura. Now when a consumer from Europe moves to North America and wants to purchase this car, they will find that it’s much more than it was at home and now it can only be found at an Acura dealership.
This may not seem that confusing for most people, but when you ask consumers in Europe about how they perceive Chrysler it may be different then how they perceive Lancia. Now add the fact that most consumers in North America don’t know what a Lancia is they may be sceptical about purchasing something which comes from the Fiat group. Yes in North America we still remember the days of Fix It Again Tony, Fiat and may have a hard time swallowing the fact that they can build quality cars. But if we can get over the fact that Hyundai got its start with the Pony, then maybe we will be able to get over the whole Fiat piece of the Chrysler puzzle.
It seems that when you look the whole of the pie, rather than just a piece of it, most can see that it is more beneficial to both brands if they share for now. But in the long run it will be better if both brands try to make their identity, rather than just being the “Gemini brand” of the Fiat group.
February 15, 2011