The Lancia brand may be relatively unknown here in the U.S. but we got a taste of it back at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show last January where we saw a Lancia Delta hatchback rolled out wearing a Chrysler badge (pictured above).

That was just a preview of what Fiat Group CEO Sergio Marchionne had planned for Lancia; essentially to cross-share products with Chrysler and reposition it as full-line premium brand for European markets. Just a few months later it was confirmed that the Chrysler brand would be axed in Europe, with its cars instead to be sold as rebadged Lancias.

One of the first Chrysler’s to be rebadged as a Lancia and sold in Europe will be the upcoming 2011 Chrysler 300, which according to latest reports will be renamed a Lancia Thema and make its debut at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show in March. The North American market 300 will be on show next month at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show.

The Thema  won’t be a high-seller for Lancia, with sales of only 10,000 to 15,000 expected annually, but it’s hoped that it will act as a halo model, helping draw attention to other products in Lancia’s portfolio like a new Ypsilon minicar that's also expected to debut at March’s Geneva event.

The Thema, meanwhile, will be differentiated from the Chrysler 300 thanks to unique bumper and grille designs. It will also get a 230 horsepower 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 supplied by Italy’s VM Motori, in addition to the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 offered on local models.   

Production of the Thema will take place at Chrysler’s plant in Brampton, Ontario, alongside the 300, and first sales should start towards the end of the year.

The new Lancia Ypsilon is expected to go on sale in June.