TURIN - Lancia's stunning Dialogos luxury concept is the 'mother of the next Kappa,' said its designer, Mike Robinson.
The concept car is 5000mm long, a smooth sedan with little exterior trim. The interior is a collection of futuristic ideas, including a steering wheel that swings from side to side.
The Dialogos is intended to revive the brand's image, which has been suffering. Only the small Ypsilon is selling well. Last year, the Kappa model sold only 25,000 in Europe. During the late 1980s, the Lancia Thema model sold 55,000 annually.
The Dialogos has been under development since August 1996. It was supposed to make its debut at the Frankfurt auto show last September, then at Geneva in March.
Fiat Auto President Roberto Testore has been personally involved in the project. He wants to revive the Lancia nameplate, apparently against the will of some other board members.
Robinson said that the Dialogos 'is a futuristic design, a next-generation car, with a flavor of the past.'
Traditional Lancia values are aesthetics and technology, said Robinson.
'This is an historical car that brings Lancia a step out of the dark.'
Dialogos' interior is supposed to combine the concepts of a perfect atmosphere, a living room, and stress-free driving.
Front seats can be swivelled 180 degrees to create a face-to-face arrangement when the car is not being driven.
There is no gear shift, instrument panel or hand brake. Doors open for the driver approaching with a computer card in their pocket. The Ego Card is also used to start the car, and it keeps track of personal preferences and driving habits.
Doors open book-style, as on the old Lancia Aurelia and Appia.
The Dialogos has no engine, but it does have a new multi-link suspension system and other chassis innovations. Lancia says many interior features will be used in future cars.
Robinson called the Dialogos 'the mother of the next Kappa,' which is due in 2000.
He said the Kappa would share design cues like the clean, chromeless lines, 'but it won't be as big as this concept study.'
Next year's new Dedra will also feature some design details from the Dialogos.
William Diem contributed