Maserati pins revival hopes on EVs, SUV

Europe

MODENA, Italy — Maserati will invest more than 2.5 billion euros ($2.96 billion) to launch a total of 13 new models and derivatives by 2025, with a goal of raising sales to 75,000 a year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Mike Manley said.

Manley, speaking at the launch of the MC20 supercar in Modena on Sept. 10, described Maserati as one of FCA’s crown jewels. He admitted, however, that the brand’s rebuilding had hit some bumps and has been financially painful, but necessary.

Under the new product plan, the brand “has been given significant resources by the group,” he said. “We call this a launch point for Maserati.”

The 2.5 billion-euro investment is for the most part included in a larger FCA plan to invest 5.5 billion euros in Italy. Total investment in the MC20 was about 350 million euros. 

The MC20 will sell for 210,000 euros in Italy and $230,000 in the U.S. Maserati has installed production capacity of about 1,500 units for the coupe and coming convertible and battery-electric versions.

The main objective of the plan is to bring Maserati back to sales growth and financial profits. After reaching a peak of 48,700 units in 2017, Maserati’s global sales slumped to 26,500 last year and dropped by 48 percent to 7,000 in the first half of 2020, company data shows.

Profit margins were negative in 2019 (minus 12 percent) and in the first half of 2020 (minus 40 percent), after a 13.8 percent operating margin in 2017 and 5.7 percent in 2018. 

A new management team led by CEO Davide Grasso and executive Chairman Harald Wester has been in place since July 2019. Wester also serves as FCA’s chief technical officer.

Manley said in Modena that he expects 2020 “to be the last year when Maserati loses money.” The company should reach its previously stated operating margin target of 15 percent “by 2025, maybe earlier,” he said.

Manley said that Maserati is the only luxury brand within FCA and will keep this role within Stellantis, the new name chosen for the company that will merge FCA with PSA Group.

Manley added that given its luxury positioning, Maserati could have limited synergies with other group brands. Volume brands do not generate margins hefty enough to pay for systems and components for a luxury brand, he explained.

These are the key points of Maserati’s product offensive:

  • 2021: At the beginning of next year Maserati will begin deliveries of the coupe version of the MC20; at the end of the year the Grecale midsize SUV will be unveiled. The Grecale, which gets its name of a Mediterranean wind, will be based on the same Giorgio platform as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio midsize SUV, and it will be assembled alongside the Stelvio at FCA’s plant in Cassino, Italy. Maserati officials expects the Grecale to become the brand’s best-selling model.
  • 2022: Seven new cars and variants will be unveiled: convertible and battery-electric versions of the MC20; the new GranTurismo large coupe and GranCabrio large convertible, which will both be offered in battery-electric versions; and a battery-electric version of the Grecale. The GranTurismo will be the first full-electric Maserati to reach the market.
  • 2023-24: The following two years will see the launch of replacements for the Quattroporte large sedan and Levante large SUV. Each will also have a battery-electric version.

The Quattroporte would be left as Maserati’s single entry in the sedan segments, as the midsize Ghibli will not be replaced. The Ghibli was updated in July with the addition of a mild hybrid version and in August with the Trofeo varitant, featuring a 572-hp Ferrari-made V-8 gasoline engine. The Levante will also be offered in a mild hybrid version starting in 2021.

Adding the Grecale as a second SUV to the Levante will be crucial to growth, Maserati said. Executives say that SUVs will make up 70 percent of its premium target markets, with the remaining 30 percent split between sports sedans (15 percent), long-wheelbase sedans (10 percent) and sports cars (5 percent).

Maserati expects the market for premium SUVs to grow 40 percent by 2025 from 2019 levels; sports sedans are forecast to jump 52 percent, while demand for sports cars will decline by 8 percent.

Manley said it was difficult to forecast what Maserati’s battery-electric share will be in 2025, but he said that offering each model in combustion engine and battery-electric versions will give the brand flexibility to respond to demand. 

As part of the brand’s revival plan, Maserati will use the MC20 as a platform to return to racing, Grasso said. The coupe just unveiled will compete in GT races starting from the 2022 season. More details will be given shortly, said Grasso, who added that Maserati will race with its own team but will also offer the MC20 to private entrants.

Maserati won several Formula One championships in the 1950s, led by driver Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina. It returned from a long hiatus with the mid-engine MC12 in 2004, and it won the FIA GT championship from 2005 to 2009.

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