Lancia, Chrysler to share products

Lancia and Chrysler, the two divisions of the new Fiat-Chrysler alliance that now have the same leader, will share future product platforms beginning with a new Lancia-badged, Chrysler 300-based flagship.

Lancia will also get a vehicle based on the platform that will replace the current Chrysler Sebring, according to an Automotive News source. In exchange, Chrysler could get a small, upmarket hatchback platform to use for a future sub-Sebring car designed to meet stringent fuel economy standards.

The flagship sedan, based on the next-generation Chrysler 300, will replace the recently discontinued, controversially-designed Lancia Thesis.

Chrysler is being pushed upmarket by Fiat's executives; the goal is to have the automaker operate on the same plane as General Motors' Cadillac division, although even the Italians acknowledge that there's a long way to go.

Like Lancia, Chrysler will be positioned as a style-conscious brand for upscale, trend-setting consumers. Though Lancia faced dwindling sales for much of the last decade, its recent repositioning seems to have worked: In a down market, Lancia's sales have remained flat. That's good news by 2009 standards, especially considering Lancia's product lineup has been pared down.

Industry insiders give much of that credit to Lancia's chief, Olivier Francois, a marketing expert who is now at the helm of both Chrysler division and Lancia. Francois was a natural choice to head up Chrysler division for Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne because of how he handled the similar, albeit on a smaller scale, Lancia dilemma.