Lancia Automobiles S.p.A. is a car maker based in Italy, and founded in 1906 by Vincenzo Lancia and his counterpart Claudio Fogolin. It was first called Lancia & C. It was bought out by the Fiat Group in 1969, and it has a history of producing unique cars with a road-rally pedigree. The modern Lancia is seen as a more elegant alternative to most of the Fiat models upon which they are based. Lancia is also known for designating its models with Greek alphabet letters.
The first Lancia Car was called the Tipo 51 (12 HP, later to be called Alfa). It was made from 1907 to 1908, and it had a smallish, 4-cylinder engine with 58 bhp. Vincenzo Lancia passed away from a heart attack in 1937, and his wife Adele Miglietti and son Gianni took the company over. They convinced Vittorio Jano to join the company in an engineering position, with Jano already having a reputation for building Alfa Romeo’s 1750 Sport, as well as the 2300, 2900, P2, and P3- some of the period’s most successful race cars.
The Lancia company brought about many innovations, such as the Theta of 1913. The Theta was the first mass-production car in Europe to come equipped with a full electrical system. The Lambda, made from 1922-1931, was the first car with a monocoque body, and it also had an independent front suspension that combined the hydraulics and the spring into one unit, a feature that remained on most Lancias until the release of the Appia in 1963. In 1948, Lancia released the first car with a five-speed gearbox (the Series 3 Ardea). In 1950, Lancia released the Aurelia, the first production V6 engine. Lancia’s quest for innovation, their focus on quality, and the intricate nature of the process by which they built their cars meant that each model had to be built basically from scratch. Lancia’s models have little in common with one another, causing the price of production to go much higher, while there was no corresponding rise in demand.
Some Lancia models were imported in the 50s and 60s, and Lancias were sold officially in the US from 1975 onward. However, sales were relatively slow, and the Lancia line was withdrawn when Fiat was, back in 1982. In 2009, after Fiat bought a share in America’s Chrysler and vested itself in the company’s restructuring, it decided that Lancia and Chrysler would collaborate on some vehicle projects. The CEO of Lancia, Olivier Francois, took over as chief executive officer of Chrysler in 2009. Chrysler also said that some Chryslers would be badged as Lancias, and vice versa. Chrysler is set to be reestablished as an upmarket brand, a designation that was somewhat in doubt after Plymouth was dropped. The collaboration was evidenced at 2010′s Detroit Auto Show, where a Lancia Delta with Chrysler badging was displayed. The car is the first Lancia to be sold under the Chrysler marque, and is seen as the PT Cruiser’s replacement.