Maserati Has Entered the SUV Segment, Worrying the Competition
SUV manufacturers: be alert! Maserati, the world’s premier luxury brand, has entered the SUV segment with its new Levante. While the company is usually focused on producing Italian sports cars, we’re now going to get to see the brand flex its muscles in one of the industry’s fastest-growing segments.
As Damien Reid of GulfBusiness.com notes, the vehicle’s name is almost indicative of the brand’s intentions for entering the segment. Levante is a “wind that blows to the region from Italy,” and the writer believes the name could be the brand’s attempt at adding a “breathe of fresh air” to what is becoming a “stale” segment.
Maserati’s Chief Executive Officer, Harald J. Wester, sat down with Reid to discuss the release of the new SUV, and he explained some of the brand’s logic for entering this enticing segment. If you’ve been considering a visit to a Maserati dealer in New York, you may soon be influenced to pursue the brand’s new Levante…
Maserati opted to use a twin-turbocharged three-liter V6 engine built by Ferrari. Why didn’t they opt for a V8 engine?
“Europe is over 80 per cent diesel whereas markets like the United Kingdom are more than 95 per cent, and for the rest of the world, the V8 does not even account for 2 per cent despite some exotics.”
“Even in the Middle East, the predominant engine in the Quattroporte and Ghibli range is our V6 so it’s not a matter of having a V8, it’s about selling a V8 and they (our competitors) have them but they can’t sell them.”
Why do other SUV dealers include a V8 engine?
“Range Rover needs V8s because they don’t have attractive V6s in their portfolio and their 5-liter V8 is for the museum.”
For those curious, Wester was directly calling out the brand’s top rival.
How does the Levante compare to rival SUVs?
“In terms of on-road performance, there is nothing like this in its segment.”
“The guideline was always to not compromise and offer the best of two worlds.”
“To know that you could go off road if you wanted or needed is of interest to many people. I was in Dubai a few months ago and we did some crazy driving in the desert as well as on the race track.“
There’s no denying the capabilities that the brand’s new SUV can offer. The brand claims that the SUV can crank out 430 brake horsepower, resulting in a top speed of 164 miles per hour and a 0-to-60 miles per hour time of 5.2 seconds. The vehicle even includes the Ghibli’s Q4 torque vectoring all-wheel-drive system, although the on-road SUV certainly shouldn’t be considered an off-roader (although it’s more than capable of traveling off the beaten path).
How did engineers achieve such impressive numbers in an SUV? Lots of testing. The Levante was subjected to tests on five different continents, with the SUV having to endure minus-38 degree temperatures in the Arctic Circle and 122 degree temperatures in the UAE’s desert. These tests assure that the new SUV is ready to perform in any conditions.
You can truly get an idea of what the Levante has to offer by visiting a Maserati dealer in New York and giving the SUV a test ride.
What’s the plan for the brand’s intention to produce a plug-in hybrid version of their vehicles?
“For Maserati, it would start with Levante but then it could work for GranTurismo and GranCabrio.”
“You just need to choose the proper battery size for each car.”
Was the decision to produce an SUV influenced by the lofty projected sales numbers set in 2013 (50,000 units in 2017, 75,000 units in 2018)?
“It doesn’t matter if we achieve these number in 2017 or 2018.”
“Don’t tell Sergio [Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles], but what’s more important to me is how we achieve these volumes. You don’t sell on price, don’t push on volumes and don’t push on market share. With a brand like Maserati you need to grow into these volumes and do nothing which could damage the brand.”
Are declining sales worrying the brand?
“Last year, the Quattroporte segment saw a 30 per cent downturn in China but it remains the biggest market locked in a battle with the US.”
“Today, China is the biggest market by far. It may have fluctuated in recent years but not in the SUV segment, which has seen constant growth.”
The brand shouldn’t have too much to worry about, assuming their new product ends up being a hit. The SUV market has grown nearly forty-percent over the past half-decade, and we can only expect these numbers to continue to grow. Maserati should instantly establish itself as a top dog in the segment, as the luxury SUV will surely be a hit in a limited segment. Don’t be surprised to see the Levante showcased at Maserati dealers in New York.
What about in other markets?
“The Middle East is not important enough (for sales). It is important but it could be more important.”
“I’m absolutely happy with the market share but just as a market size in general. Obviously the United Arab Emirates is a big market within the region but there are issues of not being able to sell in some countries even though last year was a good year for Maserati in the Gulf.”
“It is an important market. It’s rich in terms of mix but even considering it as a region, it is not huge volume for us and that’s simply a matter of fact.
“You have to be aware that it is not China, where they are buying 260,000 of these types of car a year. I would be happy to sell two orders of magnitude below that in the region but the Middle East is important because it has a very particular climate, a tough climate and so we always go and do a lot of testing.”
The Levante is starting to roll into Maserati dealerships in New York, including Maserati of Albany. Head down to the dealership and give the vehicle a look for yourself!