UK: Dodge dead, long live Lancia (sort of)

By headlineauto | 20 December 2010

Current Lancia Delta has been around since 2008, will become a Chrysler only for UK

Current Lancia Delta has been around since 2008, will become a Chrysler only for UK

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The Chrysler and Jeep brands will relaunch in the UK in the New Year under new Fiat management with a product offensive led by new 4x4s and re-badged Lancias.

Lancias have not been seen in the UK since they were withdrawn from the market in 1994, but they will make their return in 2011 wearing Chrysler badges - standard bearers for the new alliance between the American and Italian car companies.

The Chrysler Delta will be launched at next month's Detroit motor show and will come into the UK in June to compete in the market segment dominated by the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf.

However, volume aspirations are modest to begin with. Senior product manager Steve Murfin said: "This is just the start of the re-launch for the Chrysler brand in the UK. We will gradually build volume as we build the dealer network."

Later in the year will come the small Chrysler Ypsilon, based on the redesigned Lancia model being launched at the Geneva motor show next March.

Future Chrysler models will include the American redesigned 300C in 2013 [a facelift has been shown recently] and Murfin said, as the alliance with Fiat develops, new models based on new platforms with new names will be developed.

Andrew Humberstone, managing director of Fiat Group operations in the UK, said the Delta and Ypsilon are part of a "bridging" strategy, designed to re-establish the brand in the UK until new models appear.

He added: "The fact that the company is producing right-hand-drive models for just small numbers in the UK sends a strong signal over the commitment to the market here.

"The future is black or white. Either Chrysler and Jeep are going to be in the UK or they are not - there is nothing in between. We are fully committed to being a success."

As well as the Chrysler models, the Jeep brand will get the facelifted Wrangler from next month featuring a new 2.8-litre diesel engine and a stop-start system for the first time as a feature on the sport manual.

The facelift Patriot arrives in April with the high-end Compass version joining the range in June. These have much improved new interiors and the Compass a Grand Cherokee-inspired new nose and will be available with two-wheel drive for the first time outside the US.

Murfin said: "The compact SUV segment, particularly for 2WD, is very strong at the moment with vehicles such as the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage and Hyundai ix35. We see great potential for Jeep here."

The latest Grand Cherokee will also be available from May as will the updated Chrysler Grand Voyager MPV.

Chrysler Jeep is expected to end this year with UK sales of around 4,300 - well down on its pre-economic crisis sales of 22,000.

Murfin said that the UK operation is targeting sales of 11,500 Chryslers and 4,500 Jeeps in 2012, rising to combined sales of around 29,000 in 2014.

The dealer network will be expanded to accommodate this increase from 48 sales and 32 repair outlets now to around 90 by 2014.

Murfin said the Dodge brand will be axed in the UK but that dealers would continue to service vehicles on the road.

GOLDING’S TAKE: The challenged man handling Fiat, Alfa, Lancia, Chrysler and Jeep