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Opinion: Lancia shouldn't look back as it enters a new era

Sometimes it’s best to leave the past in the past. Let’s see if that applies to Lancia...

Published: 19 Feb 2024

In 2009 I wrote a story about not going back. I was thinking about the moon, as it was the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. The dozen people to have walked on its surface had exhibited bravery and steely-minded commitment far beyond the compass of almost any other mortals. They themselves were by far the most reliable and well proven element of the entire 2,800-tonne rocket they’d strapped themselves into. And they were departing to a hostile black vacuum almost a quarter of a million miles beyond the possibility of rescue.

Their only real time connection was a low-bandwidth radio signal carrying voices on a bed of interference, and snowstormy black and white video. For the whole planet Earth watching heart in mouth below them, it vividly emphasised the distance and the peril of the enterprise.

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Spaceflight was initially about the power of nations, and later about the value of science. These days, the principal qualification is wealth. It’s led by the egos of hypercapitalists who place themselves way beyond the bounds of earthly institutions. I guess Musk, Bezos and Branson think that because enough people have given them enough money, they’ve somehow earned a legitimacy equivalent to a nation state.

After they’ve gone up, they’ll start taking fare paying space tourists and then those beautiful spectral images of Armstrong and Aldrin will be usurped by extra-planetary Instagrammers. Getting those few into space will distract from improving the lives of the many on our home planet. At which point we’ll surely wish humankind never went back.

Now, at what point will we wish Lancia never went back? Lancia will be relaunching as a Stellantis electric brand this year. Its communication features shots of brutal Integrales and Stratoses winning rallies and beautiful Fifties Aurelias and super advanced Twenties Lambdas. It was a company fit for the automotive equivalent of spaceflight.

But spaceflight now is different from the Saturn V era and so is Lancia. OK, a few of today’s buyers might recall the rally cars, and a small percentage of that small percentage are aware of the lovely Fulvias, and a small percentage again will recall those original classics that established Lancia as an aristocrat. But basically Lancia is a dead brand.

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The possibility exists that if a bunch of Stellantis designers and marketers want to build a startup brand, they might do well to look for inspiration to the best of Lancia’s past. But if the public then go off and start turning over the stones of Lancia’s living memory, they’re as likely to find maggots as gems.

Same with Jaguar. Jaguar has won Le Mans and built epic saloons and sports cars. That’s good inspiration for the people inside the Gaydon development hive. But to people who haven’t spectated at classic car events, the word Jaguar just as likely means a timeworn diesel X-Type. Not a good association for when Jaguar tries a new liftoff in 2025.

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