10-06-2009, 01:07 PM
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Chrysler and Lancia brands to share products in Europe
TURIN -- Fiat S.p.A. aims to integrate the Chrysler brand more closely with the Italian automaker's upscale Lancia marque in Europe with the two brands likely to share products from small hatchbacks to large sedans. The appointment of Lancia CEO Olivier Francois as Chrysler brand boss is a step toward the goal, a Fiat source said.
Chrysler and Lancia will share products and distribution in Europe in the near future, the source, who has direct knowledge of the matter, told Automotive News Europe.
Lancia could derive a replacement for its Thesis flagship from the next-generation Chrysler 300, the source said.
Lancia stopped building the seven-year-old executive sedan in the summer.
Fiat also is looking at other product sharing opportunities for Chrysler and Lancia.
Lancia could get a car derived from the Chrysler Sebring successor and Chrysler could get a version of the next-generation Lancia Ypsilon small car, due in Europe late next year.
Chrysler brand's former CEO Peter Fong said earlier this month that Fiat aimed to take Chrysler more upscale toward Cadillac.
On Monday, Fiat and Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne replaced Fong with Francois as Chrysler brand CEO in a shakeup that also saw the head of the Dodge brand, Michael Accavitti, leave the company and the creation of a Ram truck brand.
Francois keeps his job as Lancia CEO and stays head of marketing for Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Fiat Professional light vans and Lancia.
He will also coordinate worldwide marketing strategies, brand development and advertising for the Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge car and Dodge Ram brands.
Lancia sold about 110,000 units a year from 2005 to 2008. From January to August, Lancia's Western Europe sales were flat at 79,683 units in an overall market that declined 6.6 percent, according to ACEA, the European automakers association.
Francois, a marketing expert, is credited with keeping the brand's sales stable during the economic crisis, helped by some very successful advertising campaigns.
Lancia's advertising has featured Carla Bruni, wife of the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and Hollywood actor Richard Gere.
Francois, a French native, joined Fiat Group Automobiles in 2005 from Citroen, where he was the French brand's Italy chief.