The plan of Fiat-Chrysler's Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne to boost slow sales of the Lancia and Fiat brands in the European region through revamped Chrysler models is receiving mixed results. For one, the Fiat Freemont is off to a good beginning with 6,498 units sold during the first quarter, based on market researchers JATO Dynamics.
With this result, Fiat will likely hit or come close to its sales target of 30,000 units of the Freemont model in the European region in 2012. The Freemont is a rebadged Dodge Journey large crossover. On the other hand, the Voyager large minivan and the Lancia Thema large sedan are selling at a slow rate. The sales of Lancia, which is the rebadge of the Chrysler 300, have been adversely affected by a new luxury tax implemented on January 1 by the cash-strapped Italian government.
This tax penalizes purchasers of vehicles with a horsepower rating of at least 252 hp. Customers who own the 285-hp Thema gasoline variant must pay 500 euros annually in luxury tax. The Thema's diesel variant and the Voyager, which is the rebadged Town & Country model, are not subject to the tax. However, sales of these models are slow because only a few Italians can afford to acquire large vehicles.
Piero Mocarelli, owner of Mocauto, told Automotive News Europe that the typical buyer of a Voyager model in Italy is "delaying any vehicle replacement" because of the "general economic uncertainties."
Mocauto is one of the biggest Lancia dealers in Italy. Mocarelli added that the Thema is considered as a luxury vehicle and thus, customers are moving away even from the tax-exempted diesel variant. After the tax was introduced, the "entire segment of large cars" in the country "simply disappeared," with sales dropping by around 75% compared in 2011, he related. [source: Autonews]