Abstract: Killing an Icon in the Name of Speed: Production Managers and the Decline of Lancia in the 1970s

Giuliano Maielli


This paper focuses on the decline of the Lancia brand after 1970. Lancia is an Italian car maker, part of the Fiat Group. During the 1950s and 1960s, Fiat had been extremely successful in designing and manufacturing small and affordable vehicles. In 1969, Fiat took over Lancia, which had a reputation for high quality and high performance cars. Actually, it was an icon of Italian style and engineering. In theory, the takeover would have helped Fiat to strengthen its position in the upper end of the European market. Actually, Fiat production managers disagreed with marketing managers over the extent to which the brand identity and technical specificity of Lancia should be emphasized as opposed to technical synergies. Also, Fiat production managers were not prepared to change their production routines, which were geared to high process speed and low production costs. This made it difficult to share technical knowledge between Fiat and Lancia. As Fiat production managers prevailed, Lancia lost its technical specificity and brand identity. By analyzing the dominant role of production engineers at Fiat, the paper unlocks the mechanisms that led to the decline of Lancia as an icon of Italian style and engineering.