A COUPLE of days ago, I watched the world debut of the Lancia Delta – the car, it is hoped, will herald the return of the famous marque to the UK market. Despite the dynamic name, which still conjures up images of Martini striped Integrales steamrollering the opposition in International rallying, I’m still not 100 per cent sure the time’s right for a return to the UK.
Having a good nose around the car, I couldn’t help but fall in love with its opulent interior and dramatic styling, but it’s a concept that I reckon might not go the distance in the UK. You see, it’s all about luxury, comfort, wood and leather – and that immediately puts me in mind of another marque; one that’s close to the hearts of our readers – Rover.
There’s been a Lancia/Rover synergy or overlap for years – and our correspondent, Matthias Jost, discussed this at some length years ago. But the Italian company is struggling in the market these days, and as far as the UK is concerned, a relaunch will prove costly and difficult to pitch at buyers. When Lancia disappeared from our price lists in 1994, it was still tarnished with the reputation for corrosion – something that proved that buyers have an awfully long memory. Today, it’s even more difficult to imagine Lancia’s big UK sell, when there’s only two things in buyers’ minds – rust and rallying.
Especially in a car with Rover-like brand values.
So, what will be Lancia’s push in the UK? Quality? That’s going to be tough. The cossetting factor? Buyers supposedly aren’t looking for that now. The ownership experience? Not unless they shake up the dealers. Italy? Fiat and Alfa Romeo seem to have that buttoned up.
They could do worse than go for the Woopy (Well-off old person) market. That’s where the spending power is these days – and with older buyers (myself included) still harbouring fond memories of classic Lancias, they’d need less convincing. Comfort is paramount, as is the ease of entry and exit – and before younger readers snigger, remember that the MG ZT couldn’t exist without the existence of the Rover 75 – a car who’s mission statement looks rather similar to the Delta’s.
And the advertising tagline for the new motor? DELTA: The ultimate Woopy cushion.
It’s bound to be a winner.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.