Amidst the confirmation that chief executive Sergio Marchionne was splitting off the Dodge Ram truck unit into its own division of the Chrysler Group came the announcement of some executive re-shuffles in Auburn Hills. Among them, Lancia CEO Olivier Francois was appointed head of the Chrysler brand. But according to the latest reports, the sharing of a chief executive is only the tip of the North Atlantic iceberg for cooperation between the Chrysler and Lancia.

Long subsisting like it's the Plymouth of the Fiat Group, Lancia lacks a strong product portfolio. But while it isn't expected to join its sister brands in the transatlantic journey to the American market, the sharing and co-development of new products with Chrysler could get the quirky Fiat division back on track.

Among those products that stand to be shared between the two quasi-premium brands are the next-generation models of the Chrysler 300 (which could underpin a replacement for the discontinued Lancia Thesis), Chrysler Sebring, and Lancia Ypsilon hatchback.

Meanwhile, Francois, who joined Fiat in 2005 from his position as a regional manager for Citroën, is emerging as a rising star within both auto groups: his responsibilities now put him in charge of both Chrysler and Lancia, as well as marketing, advertising and branding for no less than nine brands: Fiat, Fiat Professional, Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram. If it wasn't clear before, it's now plainly obvious who has replaced Luca de Meo as Marchionne's right hand man.

[Source: Automotive News – subs. req'd]