Lancia's Delta, soon to be offered with a Chrysler badge.
I understand, from the popular motoring press, that the FIAT/Chrysler merger means the end of Chrysler in Europe. Their models will be rebranded Lancia, and Lancia models branded Chrysler for non-European markets. Strangely, however, the UK market will recieve the Chrysler branded cars, not those bearing the more evocative Lancia nameplate.
I'm not sure that any of this is a wise move, mainly because I'm not convinced that Lancia and Chrysler do good bedfellows make.
I've had a good crawl over a current Delta, and in all honesty the car managed to impress me considerably. Yes, it looks a little bit squirrel-esque when viewed from head on, but the interior is a genuinely pleasant place to sit. Like all Lancias (Especially the Lybra - what a shame that car wasn't available in RHD) it not only looks classy but feels truly upmarket; the plastics are nice to touch, the seats are firm, and it all feels RIGHT.
Now compare this to, say, the interior of a Chrysler Sebring. It's grey, with pretend aluminium and equally plastic wood. There is nothing (admittedly from photos, I've never so much as seen a Sebring to compare the Delta to) to draw one's attention, the plastics look to be of inferior quality, and the outside of the car is to my mind a bit of a mess. How such a thing could ever be branded a Lancia is beyond me, unless some work is put into refining the interior decor big style.
However, it's not all doom and gloom. Renderings of the next generation Chrysler 300C show a far more pleasant interior than any of the current lineup, and a Flaminia GT style grille complete with huge Lancia logo would suit the big C no end - add a bit more chrome, some less brash colour choices (The Thesis was available in a lovely metallic rust colour - quite apt given the rumours that drove the brand from these shores) and some typically Italianite alloy wheels, and the package could work. Only just.
Working the other way round is a move I'm equally unsure about. Nice though the Delta is, with Chrysler badges and attendant grille it borders on the ridiculous. What previously seemed a little odd yet fundamentally pretty looks as a Chrysler to be quite ill-judged. Chrysler do, however, get an improved interior ambience from a tie-in with the Lancia division of FIAT, which is more than my experience suggests the Italian division will recieve. Looking on the bright side for we Europeans, though, the SRT range would make superb Lancia HFs...
My main reason for being dubious, however, is that I have been eagerly awaiting Lancia's return to the UK for the past 2 or 3 years. The worldwide recession put paid to the reintroduction when it was meant to happen, and as such it was postponed. But for the reintroduction of one of motoring's most evocative brands to be made with a whimper, under the name of a somewhat less interesting (to my mind) American marque, borders on the tragic. If such a match must be made, then give us back our UK Lancias along with it. We're asking very nicely.
P.S. From The Captains Chair now has a website - either click the link at the top of this page or visit http://fromthecaptainschair.co.nr.