Exported From Detroit: Chryslers Headed to Italy


A resurgent Chrysler is seeing robust sales and mostly positive reviews, diluting most negative undertones its recent ownership change to Fiat might have conjured. What might not be so well known is that the cross-Atlantic partnership isn't just bringing Italian cars like the Fiat 500 to the U.S.

The company is repackaging Chrysler and Dodge cars, SUVs and minivans for sale in Europe under the Lancia nameplate.

While Chrysler wants to be seen as a more upscale choice over Dodge in the U.S., that's exactly the position Lancia has in Italy over the Fiat brand, with Alfa Romeo being the top-tier nameplate.

While all this insider talk is interesting, the biggest impact for U.S. consumers is the fact that these cars are being exported to Europe from the U.S. (and Canada), and we caught sight of that process on a recent weekend trip to the East Coast.

A car carrier filled with Chrysler 300 sedans rebadged as Lancia Themas and Chrysler Town & Country minivans rebadged as Voyagers was spied heading east along Interstate 80/90 just east of Fremont, Ohio, by Editor-in-Chief Patrick Olsen.

He said they were plastered with stickers featuring the Canadian Maple Leaf, which makes sense since both vehicles are built at Chrysler plants in Ontario, Canada.

Chrysler told us that these two Lancia models aren't on sale yet and that the European press hasn't even driven them. So we truly caught an early batch headed to sea.

Although these vehicles are not made by U.S. workers, the financial bottom line beefed up by additional sales of these models will certainly have an impact on U.S. operations and profits.

While the sharing of models across borders is viewed positively by Fiat, doing so across brands in the U.S. is a no-no, according to Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne.

In a recent interview with Automotive News, he stressed the Dodge Grand Caravan would not be sold alongside the Town & Country for the 2013 model year. That reiterates what Marchionne told Cars.com in January at the Detroit auto show regarding the Dodge minivan being replaced by a large three-row crossover akin to the Chrysler Pacifica or Ford’s current Flex.

We doubt that the Dodge minivan would be phased out so quickly after a 2011 redesign. We'd expect it to continue its run after the current 2012 model year into 2013.

The midsize Dodge Avenger sedan was also mentioned as being phased out soon, which makes sense to us. This would likely happen in advance of new smaller cars slotted for the Dodge brand in the near term, borrowing technology from Fiat products.

Chrysler has few new product launches in store this year after a massive assault of new cars the past few months, but we’ll likely learn more about the company's plans during this year’s auto show season.



Market Researcher

This sure doesn't do much for brand marketing or even for the history of either brand. Sad to see, atleast change them up more than a badge. Be original and stop making copies, we want these companies to succeed over the long haul not short term gains.

That's why I wrote how it makes sense financially because the two brands don't coexist where they are selling them. GM did this a lot with Vauxhall for example.


These vehicles may not be assembled in the US but a number of their components are made here (body panels, transmissions, etc). If the US can export more goods to Europe and elsewhere, it will greatly help our economy.

Agree with Market Researcher here. While it's true that the Italian car shopper is not going to see the same-car-different-badge in showrooms as he cross-shops brands, (1) Chrysler has sold its minivans in Europe in the recent past and buyers will probably recognize the vehicle and (2) for Lancia, brand dilution happens when you sit in two different vehicles in the showroom and the switchgear, instrument panels, seat design and construction, displays, door handles, lock knobs, etc., are all completely different between the re-badged American cars and the ones that have been developed by Lancia under a Lancia "brand identity."

In other words, if you stepped into a Cadillac showroom here in the US and saw a vehicle with switches, radio displays, locks, etc., that were straight out of a Japan-only Toyota that had never been sold here but shared many components with US-bound units, it would not reflect well on the Cadillac brand.

Come to think of it, the Saabaru was a perfect real-world example. The 9-3, with little more than a Saab badge on the front, rear and steering wheel, looked like a Subaru inside and out. It did not help the Saab brand, and in fact many argue, may have contributed to the loss of prestige for Saab under GM.

These two giant re-badged American vehicles seem like they're going to stick out like sore thumbs in the Lancia line-up, not fit into the line-up seamlessly.

I think that counts as brand dilution.

I saw a bunch of these on a carrier. I didnt know what the badge was exactly as I wasnt close enough on the road to make it out.

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