Where are you my delta...
March 20, 2007 10:39 PM   Subscribe

Lancia Deltas are great cars - why are there none/next to none in the US?

I've decided over the last few months that the lancia delta models are some of the best cars out there. They're just that cool. For some reason, though, there seem to be next to none in the US. I've looked online for a couple hours on why this is, and haven't found a remotably suitable explanation. I found a reference to them not exporting cars to the UK anymore because they weren't selling well & it wasn't profitable for Lancia to make right-steering models anymore, but why aren't they imported into the US? The only thing I can think of is that they didn't want to put a catalytic converter into them.. but in that case, why haven't more people just brought them over themselves?

As the (semi-obvious) follow-up, what are my options for getting one? Fwiw I'm specifically looking at the HF Integrales, maybe an Evoluzione, but really any late 1st generation model.
posted by devilsbrigade to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Lancia is a Fiat company, and "fix it again Tony" Fiats never had good reputations in the U.S. The "hot hatch" concept also never caught on in the U.S. because "hatchbacks" are still mostly seen as economy cars, and there's no way Fiat/Lancia can compete with Japanese cars in that genre.
posted by frogan at 10:50 PM on March 20, 2007

mm. lancia is part of fiat. which also owns alfa romeo. which pulled out of the american market after poor sales, a fucked up customer support system, and cars that basically looked good, but couldnt handle the weather. importing cars to the us is expensive, and i also remember reading somewhere that lancias were pretty good at failing american emissions tests.
posted by phaedon at 10:52 PM on March 20, 2007

phaedon has it, it's all about the emissions, baby.
posted by amyms at 10:55 PM on March 20, 2007

The general rule here is that emissions and safety certification in the US are an expensive, drawn-out process, especially for import models that are markedly different from ones already on the market. That's one reason why you don't see the smaller Audis or VWs in the US, and why it took a while for the MINI to arrive: there's no existing stock to piggyback when dealing with certification. Then you have the problem of dealerships, parts supply, etc.

Individual imports are fraught with even more complications: you'd have to do the paperwork and make the required changes out of your own pocket. (One workaround is to import the chassis and engine separately then claim a kit-car exemption: that's how CAR magazine brought a Noble across to the US.)

Lancias are niche cars without the price tag to justify a niche foreign market. Same with Alfas. Heck, Fiats would be a niche market.
posted by holgate at 11:19 PM on March 20, 2007

I loved Top Gear's review of the Noble, by the way.
posted by phaedon at 11:24 PM on March 20, 2007

what holgate said, basically. and it's a pity because they're really badass.

and the new JTD MultiJet engine (the 1.9 16-valve series and the 2.4 20-valve series) on Alfa Romeo cars kick some serious ass, too (I know because I own one).
posted by matteo at 4:15 AM on March 21, 2007

especially tasty is the V6 3.2 engine on the Alfa GT (ironically, the car's ads have been shot on the Hollywood Hills and I doubt the car is available in the US)
posted by matteo at 4:17 AM on March 21, 2007

There are a lot of vehicles that aren't sold in the US, because the manufacturer didn't think it would be profitable to go through the (expensive and time consuming) emissions and safety certification, create a dealer and service network; some vehicles simply won't meet US standards as designed, making it even more futile to try and begin the process.

There are companies that will do this for you, at a price -- bringing in a grey-market vehicle and going through the DOT regulatory hoops. I don't know the price, but it's probably one of those "if you have to ask..." things.

You can bring a car in on your own; how easy and cheap that is will depend on what state you live in and how lucky you are. Most common is to bring in a vehicle old enough (25 years or more) that it doesn't have to meet DOT standards. You may still have to jump through some hoops to get it registered in your state -- some states will register anything with four wheels and an engine, others are very restrictive. Another possibility is to bring in a newer car as a collector's vehicle, which will, as I understand it, limit the number of miles you can drive per year. Of course, little is stopping you from disconnecting the odometer or other (illegal) ways of bypassing this; it's not like they have inspectors in every household garage across the US checking compliance. But you may still need to go through a fairly expensive process of ensuring lights and other parts are DOT compliant, there's lots of paperwork, etc.

A lot more work, but less paperwork, is to disassemble the vehicle and import it as a set of parts. This avoids a lot of the federal importation rules, but you will still have to deal with the state-controlled registration process. One way around that is to use an existing, US-registered chassis as the basis for the "new" car, which from the point of view of the state won't be new at all, and doesn't need any regulatory oversight at all, any more than it would if you replaced your tires. This is the easy way to bring in a "new" Land Cruiser or VW bug, where there are plenty of old chassis floating around, but there probably aren't too many of what you are looking for available.

But there is no easy, cheap, and convenient way to do this, by deliberate design. The DOT doesn't want a flood of unregulated imported vehicles coming in, so they make it hard to do. Another aspect is that if you aren't interested in legalities, a lot of this is easy to bypass -- you could just drive the car across the Canadian or Mexican border with US plates, etc -- but you will have problems insuring it and selling it.
posted by Forktine at 4:23 AM on March 21, 2007

There was a Delta HF Integrale (awesome choice of car!) running around Burlington, VT in the mid-1990s. These cars were never imported officially. Fiat of NA had had their butts handed to them with the Fiat Strada so bringing in more hatchbacks probably looked like a very low percentage move in the 1979-1982 era. Delta production started in 1979 and Fiat of NA stopped bringing in Lancias in 1982.

Have you ever owned a Lancia? They are not Toyotas and things break. I have had two: a Fulvia coupe and a Beta coupe. They are full of delightful engineering and each has an Achilles' heel. I don't know what that would be on a Delta but I will bet $4 it's got one.
posted by jet_silver at 8:15 AM on March 21, 2007

Forktine writes "There are companies that will do this for you, at a price -- bringing in a grey-market vehicle and going through the DOT regulatory hoops. I don't know the price, but it's probably one of those 'if you have to ask...' things."

It took targeted federal legislation lobbied by Bill Gates to get a limited exemption for the 959, difficult doesn't even begin to describe it. Especially for something like Lancias where you can't realistically pretend it's a different car like you can with say a Cosworth Escort.
posted by Mitheral at 10:18 AM on March 21, 2007

Shame. I guess I'll have to look for other suitably badass cars. I haven't had a Lancia, but a close friend has an early 70s alfa gt veloce that I've worked on before. I realize italian cars are finicky things, but even the veloce feels better to drive than 90% of the american/japanese cars around now.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:05 AM on March 21, 2007

Devilsbrigade, see if you can test drive a different Evo- the Mitsubishi. It's insane.
posted by wzcx at 1:48 PM on March 21, 2007

« Older Why can't everyone play fancy dressup?   |   My ear is clogged - it isn't wax -- and I'm... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.