Lancia (pronounced Lan-cha) is an Italian automobile manufacturer founded in 1906 by Vincenzo Lancia and which became part of the Fiat Group in 1969. The company has a long history of producing distinctive cars and also has a strong rally heritage. Modern Lancias are renowned for presenting a more luxurious alternative to the models in the Fiat range upon which they are based. One of the firm's trademarks is the use of letters of the Greek alphabet as the names of its models. The firm was also known for persisting with right-hand drive until 1956.
Lancia is famous for many automotive innovations. These include the first production car with a monocoque-type body (the Lambda, produced from 1922 to 1931), the first full-production V6 engine, in the 1950 Aurelia, and earlier experiments with V8 and V12 engine configurations. It was also the first company to produce a V4 engine. Also, Lancia pioneered the use of Independent suspension in production cars, in an era where live axles were common practice for both the front and rear axles of a car.
Lancia was not closely associated with any other manufacturer until the 1960s. By this time, their expensive and high standards of production had become unsustainable. In aiming to produce a product of the highest quality, company bosses had sacrificed cost-effectiveness and when Fiat launced a take-over bid in 1969, there was no choice but to accept. Many were concerned that this would be the end of the distinctive Lancia brand but exciting new models such as 1970's Stratos, Gamma and Beta served to prove that Fiat wished to preserve the image of the brand it had acquired.
During the 1980s, the company cooperated with Saab Automobile, with the Lancia Delta being sold as the Saab 600 in Sweden. The 1985 Lancia Thema also shared a platform with the Saab 9000, Fiat Croma and the Alfa Romeo 164.
Lancia Musa, A small MPV produced by Italian automaker Lancia since 2004. It is largely based on the Fiat Idea.
The Lancia Ypsilon is a luxurious supermini produced from 2003 and it is Lancia's best selling model at the moment. Available with small (1.2 and 1.4-litre) petrol and JTD diesel engines.
Lancia Thesis is an 4-door sedan executive car made by Lancia. It is produced from 2001 and has extensive equipment levels. The Thesis is the successor of the Lancia Kappa.
The Lancia Phedra is a prestigious MPV made by Sevel, a joint-venture of PSA and Fiat Group. It is manufactured at Sevel Nord factory in France, near Valenciennes and has been in production since 2002.
Around the same time, Lancias in the United Kingdom suffered an increasing image problem centered around a perception that Lancia cars were prone to rusting. Fiat was at this time using Russian steel which was less durable than that used by the majority of other manufacturers and many vehicles were plagued by corrosion.
However, according to the July 2007 issue of Classic & Sports Car magazine, The Daily Mirror tabloid newspaper started a series of exaggerated articles, filled with half-truths and riddled with false claims about the rust problem in the Beta model - a problem which was mostly restricted to the saloon version, which not only featured Russian steel, but also suffered from a lack of water drainage channels and holes. Always according to the magazine's article, the Daily Mirror presented affected cars older than six-years old and falsely claimed that many were newer than that. In reality, the Beta did not rust worse than anything British Leyland produced at the time, including even the Jaguar XJ6. As a matter of fact, BMW '02, E9 and the first-generation 3-series suffered very badly from corrosion and - always according to the classic car press (including both Classic & Sports Car and Thoroughbred & Classic Cars magazines) - all generations of the Ford Capri rusted profusely due to "penny-pinching" painting processes (namely, the paint was heavily diluted in water in a large tank; the car would then be dipped in the tank and, eventually, cars entering the tank later on would pick up more water than paint on their metal). Oddly enough, the British and German competitors of the Beta were spared from any criticism, although their rust protection at that time was minimal to non-existent. To counter the problem, Lancia introduced - for the first time ever - a six-year anti-corrosion warranty, before the false accusations published by the Daily Mirror.
While Fiat's popularity with British buyers soared in the 1980s and into the 1990s, Lancia sales slumped after the publicity created by the Daily Mirror, never to recover again. The last right-hand drive model was sold in 1994, when Lancia withdrew from all right-hand drive markets.
However, as of September 2006, it has been announced that the brand will return to the country with a right hand drive version of its new Delta in 2008.