This week a new chapter in the Fiat Group/Chrysler Group story starts to be written.
Fiat, which is the managing partner of the Fiat/Chrysler alliance, is using the Geneva auto show to reinvent the Lancia brand with - wait for it - Chryslers. The entire Chrysler lineup - the 300, the 200, the 200 convertible and the Town & Country minivan - will be given the Lancia badge in Europe and sold there through Lancia dealers. Moreover, the Dodge Journey crossover will also be reborn in Europe as the Fiat Freemont.
We are talking about audacious badge engineering of the most blatant sort. Perhaps it will work. There is always a chance that Fiat will find thousands of car buyers who never watch television, don't use the Internet and have avoided travelling overseas for an entire lifetime. These will be the Lancia buyers who can't see a Chrysler under that Lancia badge.
If nothing else, it will be amusing to see exactly how Fiat rolls out its new Lancias. Typically at European auto shows, the Fiat brands have the most interesting and entertaining auto show stands. I'm expecting Fiat to put some real pizzazz into the launch of a new line of Lancias from America. Almost certainly the Fiat marketing people can be expected to ladle on the sex appeal in their marketing efforts.
As for the sexy nature of other new model introductions at Geneva, who knows? The Geneva show organizers are promising 170 world and European premiers here and more than 40 of them will sport some sort of "green" technology.
BMW, for instance, is using Geneva to introduce BMW i, a sub-brand for electric vehicles and a showcase for high-tech features. Volkswagen, now officially the world's most profitable car company (about $10-billion U.S. in the most recent fiscal year) will show an array of concepts intended to demonstrate how VW plans to overtake Toyota as the world's largest auto maker.
Toyota, Honda and Nissan also are expected to show electric car concepts. Ford will show its B-Max five-seat van, Chevrolet will have a hatchback version of the Cruze compact and Mini will show its Rocketman concept, a small Mini that's about the size of the original.
The high-end brands will have plenty to show in Geneva, too. More on that later this week.