Just as promised late last year, Fiat has announced it will end sales of Chrysler-branded cars in Europe, instead selling them as Lancias through Lancia dealerships. Cuts and transformations in the distribution pipeline are also planned.

Here in the U.S., we expect to see a number of Lancia models sold as Chryslers--just the inverse of what's happening in Europe. But there have been rumblings and speculation in back channels that Fiat may be preparing to leverage the Chrysler distribution network for a return of Fiat and its sub-brands to the U.S., eventually doing away with Chrysler altogether.

In Europe, the re-shuffling will mean some 350 of the existing 1,200 Chrysler and Lancia dealerships in continental Europe will be closed, with the remainder required to expand to accommodate the new models coming their way. Currently Lancia has just four models, but with the influx of Chrysler cars, that will expand to eight.

The cuts will begin taking place just under a year from now, with all dealer contracts to expire on May 31, 2011. Those that will be retained will get new contracts to sell the combined brand. Fiat hopes the changes will help boost total sales to nearly double their current level.

Back here in the U.S., we've seen the "design study" Chrysler-grilled Lancia Delta from the 2010 Detroit Auto Show (pictured), but beyond that, there have been no solid announcements on Chrysler-badged Lancia products.

[Auto News -- sub. req.]