Posted: July 1, 2014 |  AUTHOR: KEN FOX | CONTACT ME

 

One of the U.S. TV ads for the Fiat 500 last year was titled “The Italians are Coming.” This is more appropriate this year than people realize. Most people do not know that the parent company Fiat SpA also owns Ferrari and Maserati. While Fiat’s namesake cars were no longer sold in the U.S. after 1983, Maserati and Ferrari were continually offered by its limited U.S. dealers. Fiat re-entered the U.S. market in a big way with the launch of the Fiat 500, after taking over Chrysler.

Fiat now has an estimated 204 dealers in the U.S. Fiat will finally, after many delays, launch its Alpha Romeo 4C Sports Coupe at 82 of those dealers this summer (2014). Seventeen states will have the car offered, with California having the most (12) dealers selling the Alpha Romeo. Fiat plans to launch eight new Alpha models by 2018. They will range from compact sports cars to full size utility vehicles. These autos will be offered in rear wheel drive and all wheel drive configurations, and be powered by new four and six cylinder diesel and gas engines.

Fiat Alfa Romeo 4C

Fiat Alfa Romeo 4C


However, the real “news” is Maserati will be launching a new vehicle for the U.S. market later this year. The Maserati Ghibli will be the company’s entry to grow its U.S. business among a new target audience. It will launch in September 2014 and be priced between 66,000 and 80,000 U.S. dollars. Historically, a Maserati would cost in the six figures. It is planned to compete with American, European (Daimler, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW) and other (Jaguar XF) luxury autos. The new Maserati Ghibli, pictured below, is powered by a Ferrari built twin-turbo V6 engine capable of over 400 horsepower. It will have an advanced suspension, Brembo brakes and extensive use of aluminum and Italian leather and wood interior. The interior appointments will be no less luxurious than one might expect from a Maserati vehicle.

The name Ghibli refers to a hot wind from the Sahara Desert, and was used for a previous Maserati car line in the 1960’s. Its launch is an attempt by the company to increase worldwide unit sales eightfold, from 5,000 currently to 50,000 vehicles by 2015.

Maserati Ghibli

Maserati Ghibli

Maserati will launch two additional models in the U.S. this year, including a Levante SUV and a redesigned Quattroporte. It is not clear yet how Fiat will price these cars, or its marketing and distribution plans. However, Fiat claims it will increase Maserati dealerships worldwide from 250 in 2012 to 425 by 2015.

Maserati has also redesigned its classic Quattroporte and showed the future Alfieri Coupe at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show.

Maserati Quattroporte at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show

Maserati Levante SUV

Maserati Levante SUV

Maserati Quattroporte at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show

Maserati Quattroporte at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show

The future Maserati Alfieri shown at the 2014 Geneva Car Show

The future Maserati Alfieri shown at the 2014 Geneva Car Show

Building Maserati’s business is a key Fiat parent’s strategy to stem recent losses in Europe. Instead of shutting factories, CEO Sergio Marchionne’s plan is to invest in the business. Part of this plan included setting up a “skunk works” of their best designers and engineers with a mandate to “innovate and be revolutionary.” This team now numbers 200 people, and is expected to increase to 600 by 2015.

Maserati is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, 1914-2014. Maserati has historically meant performance on the race track, world class design and innovative engineering. Three bothers, Alfieri, Ettore and Ernesto, with the last name Maserati started this company in Bologna, Italy on December 1, 1914. None of the brothers had a college education or were engineers, but they had a love for things mechanical, and for speed and the automobile. There were two other brothers, Bindo and Carlo, the latter dying at age 29 from TB. Alfieri trained in Milan as an auto salesmen and later worked in the U.S., England and South America. He later returned to Bologna and started the family business. The brothers returned to Bologna after World War I and in 1926 launched their first car called the Tipo 26, named after the year of its creation. Alfieri, a talented racer, piloted his own Tipo 26 to victory in his first race.

Maserati Tipo 26

Maserati Tipo 26


Brother Mario, a successful painter, designed the Trident logo which is still used today. By the end of the 1920’s Maseratis were setting world speed records. On September 29, 1929 Grand Prix driver Baconn Borzacchini drove the 16 cylinder V4 in Cremona, Italy to set a world’s record that stood until 1937. The Maserati 8CTF won the Indy 500 twice in 1939 and 1940.

Maserati was sold to an Italian entrepreneur, Adolfo Orsis in Moderna, Italy, in 1937, where the company’s headquarters is located today. The car company has since been owned by French car maker Citroen (1968) and acquired by Fiat SpA in 1993. Initially, part of the Ferrari Division, Maserati it is now included in the Sports Car Group. Maserati’s current president and CEO is a German born mechanical engineer, Harald Wester. He previously worked at Volkswagen and Audi, and joined Fiat in 2004, becoming Maserati’s President and CEO in August 2008.

Commentary
Sergio Marchionne should be commended for his vision and long term Fiat business strategy for the U.S. However, the jury is still out as to the U.S. success of the Fiat 500. Chrysler dealers that refitted their showrooms for the Fiat 500 have been waiting a long time for the Alfa Romeo. Fiat has a delicate task of appeasing and not alienating U.S. Chrysler dealers that competed to get Fiat dealerships but may not be allowed to initially sell the Alpha Romeo this summer. Owning a Maserati has been many a car owners dream. The opportunity for more people to see a Maserati close up, visit a dealership and potentially test drive these cars is very appealing. The hope is Fiat and Maserati dealerships will offer the quality service and expedient parts availability, unlike the shortcomings which drove Fiat out of the U.S. market originally.

Resources:
Maserati, Alpha Romeo to get a Flood of New Products, the detroitbureau.com, May 2014.
From Italy with luxe: Maserati tempts U.S. drivers with new sedan, Chicago Tribune, January 10, 2013
Maserati rolls out its entry-level Ghibli, Money.msn.com, July 9, 2013
Maserati Website, February 2, 2014
Maserati 100th Anniversary report, produced by AUTOWEEK Media Group
6. Only best performing U.S. Fiat Dealers to get Alfa Romeo Franchises, www.autoblog.com, February 24, 2014.

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©2017, The Global Galaxy blog is produced by The Soundings Group, LLC, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, www.thesoundingsgroup.com. The company is an international business consulting firm, specializing in new market assessments, market entry strategies and marketing guidance. The scope of Global Galaxy is to cover timely international trends, issues and business building ideas. Its purpose is to educate, inform and stimulate thinking for business opportunity analyses.

 

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