After alfa romeo, today I will focus on the history of another traditional italian brand: lancia. The company lancia& C. Fabbrica automobili was founded in 1906 in turin by vincenzo lancia and claudio fogolin.
Lancias birth: beginning of the 20. Century
From the beginning, lancia was considered the best italian car brand, because its engineers focused on turning patents into drivable vehicles. And because the development speed at lancia directly was very high, of the individual vehicles (compared to the competition) often smaller series were produced.
Lancia was considered a design innovator in the automotive industry and it was always special to drive a lancia. Therefore, the customers were willing to pay more money for the advanced cars.
The first vehicle the type 12 HP, later also alpha called- was introduced in 1908, but existed as a prototype in 1907.
In 1913 lancia introduced the theta before, the first car in europe, which had an electric system. Also, it was the first car with a starter and a lighted cockpit. Yes, you may not believe it, but until then vehicles had oil lamps or candles for lighting. And also the until then annoying cranking, as we know it from various black and white movies, was snow of yesterday afterwards.
The lancia introduced 10 years later in 1923 lambda with independent front suspension and hydraulic shock absorbers was the first vehicle with self-supporting bodywork. This design could drastically reduce the material cost and weight for automobiles.
Theta and lambda and their new technologies have left their mark on the automobile industry up to the present day and point to the legendary name of lancia.
Naming at lancia
In this context, let’s talk about the somewhat strange names that lancia also gave its car models right from the start.
Besides the name of the one founder (vincenzo lancia) lancia is the italian word for lance. the first lancia logo was designed in 1911 to match this: it shows a flywheel and a lance.
But now to the models:
Until 1919, all vehicles were named after their engine output. Only later did- also retroactively model designations according to the greek alphabet with some versions being prefixed with a di- or tri- and following on from their successful predecessors.
When the alphabet was exhausted, all vehicles were named after places with A-, after appia (after the Roman road appia) followed other names of Roman roads such as flaminia, flavia etc. (so-called A and F models).
From 1972 onwards, the former Greek alphabet designations were partially used again: beta, delta, gamma, but later also other Greek terms such as stratos, thema and dedra.
The delta remained, only the Greek letter was not used, but "delta" was written out. For the second series of the delta, the Greek letter was used again.
The successor of the thema was the lancia k, where the "k" was the "lancia" represents the greek letter kappa. As successor of the dedra the lybra appeared. More cars followed under the names thesis, musa, ypsilon and phedra.
You see, not really simple and comprehensible.. or?
Cut 2. World war and production after 1945
the second world war did not leave lancia unscathed: like alfa romeo, lancia was forced by the wehrmacht to produce only trucks.
But this was not a new field for lancia, only a shift in the focus of production. The brand was also a recognized player in the commercial vehicle sector, building trucks and buses of all types and sizes, as well as trolleybuses.
After the second world war lancia continued the way of the special car brand with the special design, although other leading brands concentrated on the growth market of the cheap and simple vehicles and developed this further.
Beginning of the end
Lancia did not succeed in gaining a foothold in this sector to grasp. even in formula 1 racing, lancia did not match the successes of alfa romeo or ferrari, but celebrated victories in rally racing. they even gave away their formula 1 division to ferrari in 1955.
In the same year, lancia sold the majority of the company to the italcementi group, thus plugging holes in the budget of the development department. This was followed by illustrious car models such as the lancia florida, lancia aurelia and lancia flaminia.
on this basis expensive lancia-series with numerous variants as coupe were produced, sports car, roadster or cabriolet in the case of external body operations. At that time, the brand’s six-cylinder cars were particularly expensive and were preferred only by a small target group. Lancia had high development costs and could not compensate the losses also over the direct speech of the well-heeled clientele.
It came what belongs to italy like pizza or penne: fiat! 1969 was the year when lancia was bought by fiat. But not a single lira was paid, as the mountain of debt exceeded the value of the company!
Fiat immediately lowered the prices of the models in production, but was unable to undercut its even cheaper competitor alfa romeo. For the models produced thereafter, only components of the fiat group were used for the most part. As development and production costs had to be drastically reduced, lancia engineering skills were no longer needed.
Despite this, and because they did not want to neglect the high-priced segment, from 1971 they built a legendary vehicle, the lancia stratos. This car is the only one I personally like in the lancia model range. A typical car of the late 60s/early 70s in the style of the american model corvette stingray.
And this stylish vehicle also made quite a decent figure in ralleysport:
Fiat, alfa romeo, chrylser – hope Y?
in 1986 fiat also bought the lancia competitor alfa romeo and immediately merged both parts of the company. Until 1993, a mishmash of fiat/alfa romeo/lancia car models was produced, with the specific features of the individual brands unfortunately becoming more and more diluted.
the company’s management recognized this and in 1993 reorganized the company into individual divisions that were to produce independent model ranges again from then on. The technological base however was not abandoned.
in 1998 lancia made another big hit in their model range. With the thesis, lancia succeeded in developing a model that owes its non-success to the fact that it is one of the ugliest vehicles ever built and defends this reputation grandiosely in various rankings on various websites. Somehow they wanted to create a limusine of the upper class after american model. The attempt failed..
in 2009, the chrysler group was acquired by fiat and from then on acted as its u.s. bridgehead. Independent model ranges were still produced and marketed in the respective markets. However, unit sales always remained below expectations. lancia in particular, which never really managed to break into the european small car sector, had to drastically reduce its model range.
The hopeful lancia ypsilon
And then a luxurious small car comes along and prolongs the life of this italian car manufacturer. The lancia Y/ypsilon is currently the only bright spot in the reduced to a minimum model range of lancia. A vehicle with its own face. Like all lancia models, unmistakable and takes some getting used to.
At the moment it is completely unclear whether lancia will still be selling vehicles in 2016 or whether the engineers will not manage another coup after all. Lancia builds for chrysler the voyager for the US market, but with two car models it is again only an exotic, so actually no longer an italian fairy tale.