TURIN, Italy--Fiat S.p.A. may turn to Chrysler for help in reviving its European lineup of prestige sedans.
The Italian group's upscale Lancia brand could get a replacement for its Thesis flagship from the next-generation Chrysler 300, due in 2011, a Fiat source said. It also may base a smaller Lancia sedan on the next-generation Chrysler Sebring.
Lancia stopped building the 7-year-old Thesis in the summer.
The source said Fiat aims to integrate the Chrysler brand more closely with the Lancia brand in Europe. He said Chrysler and Lancia will share distribution in Europe in the near future.
Lancia could provide products for Chrysler, too. Chrysler could get a version of the next-generation Lancia Ypsilon small car, scheduled to arrive in Europe late next year.
Last week, in a step toward integrating the two brands, Fiat and Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne put Lancia CEO Olivier Francois in charge of the Chrysler brand. Francois will remain Lancia chief and remains head of marketing for Fiat S.p.A.'s Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia and Abarth brands, and Fiat Professional light vans.
He also will coordinate worldwide marketing, brand development, and advertising for Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge cars, and Dodge Ram trucks.
Lancia sold about 110,000 units a year from 2005 to 2008, all in western Europe. Through August, Lancia's sales were flat at 79,683 units in an overall market that declined 7 percent, according to ACEA, the European automakers association.
Francois, a marketing expert, is credited with keeping Lancia sales stable during the economic crisis, helped by advertising campaigns. The French native joined Fiat Group Automobiles in 2005 from Citroen, where he was the French brand's Italy chief.
(Source: Automotive News)