The Thema re-established Lancia as a high-quality luxury manufacturer in response to the problems the marque had experienced with the Lancia Beta, which was heavily mauled by the British tabloid Daily Mirror and Esther Rantzen, presenter of the BBC TV show That's Life!, for being excessively and dangerously rust-prone; this defamation and defacing campaign, which was based on exaggeration and distortion of facts, pretty much ruined the company's commercial standing and reputation. The Thema reversed this trend with a galvanized steel chassis and rust protection that equaled or bettered that of its competitors. Build quality was higher than the Fiat Croma's and on par with the Saab 9000's. The sales organisation, however, was poor in many markets and secondhand values for the car suffered.
Production of the Thema ceased in 1994 when Lancia withdrew from right-hand drive markets (including the United Kingdom) in response to dwindling popularity and sales. (The station wagon version was never offered in right-hand drive.) Lancia continued, however, to be one of the most popular manufacturers in the Italian market and the Thema's replacement, the Lancia Kappa, sold well.
The ultimate Thema, the '8.32' ("8" standing for the number of cylinders and "32" for the number of valves) was assembled at Lancia's S. Paolo plant in Turin. It used a 3.0L Ferrari Dino V8. This engine was based on the unit used in the Ferrari 308 qv and some of the componentry was assembled by Ducati from castings made at Maranello. The engine differed from other Ferrari V8s of the time in that it was equipped with a 90 degree crankpin type crankshaft rather than the usual 180 degree type. Both Series 1 and 2 cars in non catalysed form produced 215bhp (158kW) and were capable of 149 mph (240 km/h) whilst catalysed versions were slightly detuned to 205bhp (151kW) and as such the performance was slightly impaired.
The car offered good performance (though the Turbo version was quicker than the catalytic version from 0 to 100 km/h) and excellent refinement, including a luxurious wood-and-leather interior by Poltrona Frau complete with the same luxury equipment as LX versions of the Theta. Unfortunately, a price tag of £40,000 (or more) in Britain, and the fact that only left hand drive versions were produced, limited its appeal, with only 9 being officially sold there. It was even a rare sight on Italian roads, with just 2370 Series 1 built between 1986 and 1988 and 1601 Series 2 built between 1989 and 1992 including 32 numbered special Rosso red versions.