What are Lancia's origins?

Vincenzo Lancia was groomed from a young age for a bookkeeping career, but his true passion was for automobiles. By 1899, he was 19 and working for Fiat as head inspector, test driver, and racer. His racing success led Lancia to found his own company, Lancia & Cie, Fabbrica Automobili, in 1906. The Greek alphabet served as basis for model names, beginning with the Alfa in 1908. Vincenzo's interest in engineering led to many pioneering firsts during the early years, such as independent suspension, monocoque bodies, 5-speed transmissions, and the first production V6 engine.

How did Fiat take control?

The Lancia hallmarks of innovation, quality, and styling came at the cost of affordability and profitability. Vincenzo's son Gianna assumed control upon his father's death in 1937, and his obsession with racing nearly bankrupted the company. Gianna and his mother sold off the remaining family shares in 1955; Fiat took over in 1969.

What about the Beta?

The first Lancia produced under Fiat's management was the ill-fated Beta. While initially praised for its styling and handling, it suffered premature rust issues, putting Lancia in the uncomfortable position of having to buy back new cars. The actual number of affected cars was small, but media attention created a perception that all Lancias were prone to rust, and that legacy was hard to shake.

How about Rally?

The flipside of Lancia's reputation for rust is its history of racing success. The Lancia Stratos was developed in the 1970's and won the World Rally Championships in 1974, 1975, and 1976. It was the first time a car had been developed from the ground up for the express purpose of rallying. The Delta S4 was a Group B racer, driven in the World Rally Championships until Group B was banned, based on concerns that the cars were too fast to be safe. The Delta S4 soon gave way to the four-wheel-drive Delta HF, and from 1987 to 1992, Lancia again dominated the World Rally Championships.

What about the US?

Throughout the decades, Lancia's availability in the United States has been fleeting, It was only officially available from 1975 into the early eighties, and as these sales figures show, it was not successful:

  • 1975: 1,011
  • 1976: 3,710
  • 1977: 2,811
  • 1978: 2,811
  • 1979: 1,602
  • 1980: 1,991
  • 1981: 1,354
  • 1982: 877
  • 1983: 949
  • 1984: 105

More recently, since Fiat's investment in Chrysler in 2009, there has been some talk of cross-branding between Chrysler and Lancia. A Chrysler-badged Lancia Delta appeared at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show but did not make it into US production.