TURIN – Lancia will sell a hybrid version of its new Thema flagship sedan.
Fiat's upscale brand will unveil the Thema at the Geneva auto show in March. The sedan is a rebadged version of the new Chrysler 300 that will be sold also with a hybrid variant in North America.
The Lancia Thema will have minor tweaks, such as a different grille and Europe-specific bumpers. It will go on sale with gasoline and diesel engines in the fourth quarter, Chrysler and Lancia brand CEO Olivier Francois Olivier said last week at the Detroit auto show. The gasoline-electric hybrid will follow later.
The new Chrysler 300 for the U.S. market will go on sale in North America in the first quarter. U.S. sales of the Chrysler 300 hybrid will begin in 2013.
Both the Lancia and Chrysler sedans will offer an 8-speed automatic transmission made by German supplier ZF.
The hybrid system is expected to share components and control software with a similar project that Fiat's Maserati unit is currently developing for the next generation Quattroporte large sedan, due in Europe at the of 2012.
More Chryslers for Lancia
Fiat is integrating Lancia with Chrysler and aims to nearly triple Lancia's sales to 300,000 in 2014 from 112,000 in 2009, with the help of rebadged Chryslers.
At the Geneva show, Lancia will also unveil a rebadged Chrysler 200, a midsized model that will be sold in Europe as a sedan and cabriolet, likely called the Flavia, according to Fiat sources, as well as a Lancia version of the Chrysler Voyager large minivan.
A new version of Lancia's top seller, the Ypsilon subcompact, will also debut in Geneva. Based on the Fiat Panda, the new Ypsilon will add a five-door variant in a bid to boost sales.
Lancia hopes the Thema will give the slow-selling brand an image boost but it will not be a volume seller with annual sales forecast between 10,000 and 15,000.
Both the Thema and 300 sedans will be built at Chrysler's factory in Brampton in Ontario, Canada.
Lancia built a car called Thema from 1984 to 1994. It was successful with 358,000 produced, but its replacement, called the K, was not so popular with just 117, 000 units built between 1994 and 2001.
Lancia last flagship, the Thesis, was introduced in 2002 and discontinued in early 2009 after poor sales. Only 16,000 Thesis units were built during the car's lifecycle.