Maserati Leans on the Levante

September 7th, 2015 by

Maserati is playing catch up, finally joining the competitive SUV segment, with its much anticipated upcoming Levante model. According to Maserati, production on the Levante, a luxury SUV, will begin in February of next year. Expect to see the Levante at your Maserati dealer NY about six months after that.

Why is the Levante such a crucial component of the Maserati brand? And just what exactly will it look like?

Read on to learn more and get a sneak peek of what we know about the Levante so far…

The Significance of the SUV to Maserati

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Maserati really couldn’t wait much longer before entering the competitive, but incredibly popular, luxury SUV line of sales.

According to HIS Automotive, the luxury vehivle segment has increased from 23 percent in 2010, to 31 percent in 2014, and it projects that the segment, which also includes crossovers, will boost to 33 percent in 2016, and 36 percent by 2010.

SUVs are really the industry’s cash cow. Or, as HIS Automotive senior analyst, Stephanie Brinley, explains: “Not being in that segment makes a difference for pretty much any brand right now, because it is so strong…Consumers seem to be gobbling up that body style.”

Although it may be a late comer, Maserati has actually been working on the Levante for more than ten years. Beginning in 2003, Maserati introduced two concept SUVs, but the Levante is expected to be officially introduced at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Given that this could be the brand’s most difficult chapter in its five-year plan to grow the business, Maserati CEO, Harald J. Wester and Fiat Chrysler CEO, Sergio Marchionne, are confident that the Leavante will motor Maserati to a new level of growth.

Wester asserted, “We are outperforming the markets with nearly all of our products in nearly all regions. From this point of view, I am satisfied. Obviously, I would have preferred to have the Levante nine months earlier, which would have allowed us to have a more continuous growth.”

At the moment, Maserati offers four vehicles: the Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans, and Gran Turismo coupe and convertible, with prices ranging across those four models between $70,000 and upwards of $160,000.

For Maserati, successful sales of the Levante would allow the brand to focus on producing models reminiscent of its racing history, like the Alfieri sports coupe and a revised Gran Turismo, both expected in time for the 2018 model year.

Brinley explained, “In terms of the luxury segment as a whole, Maserati is a relatively small brand. It’s importance to FCA is as a revenue generator – more so than the luxury market as a whole.”

On a global scale, Maserati sold 36,500 cars in 2014, marking a 136 percent increase from 2013, and nearly six times as many cars as those sold in 2012. The five-year plan to increase sales is targeted at 75,000 vehicles by 2018.

“We are doing well,” Wester said. “The revitalization of Maserati doesn’t lack steam or power or performance.”

So, what do we know about the Maserati Levante so far?

The 2016 Maserati Levante: A Sneak Peek

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Named in honor of the Via Emilia Levante in Bologne, Italy, home of the Maserati brothers, the upcoming Maserati Levante luxury SUV is rumored to be based on the brand’s concept car, the Kubang, first introduced at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show.

This SUV will be performance-based, built to compete with the likes of models like the Porsche Cayenne. If you’re looking to go off-roading and prefer all-terrain adventures, this is not the SUV for you.  Luxury and performance are the two guiding principles of this vehicle’s design.

On the exterior, expect to see the Maserati signature Trident grille, another nod to the Maserati brother’s home and heritage. The Trident design was inspired by the statue of Neptune, situated in the center of Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore. Other exterior details include sculpted headlamps and sizable air inlets.

Speculation puts the sales figures of the Maserati Levante somewhere between 10,000-15,000 annually, yielding total global Maserati sales of approximately 50,000 vehicles.

The Maserati Levante’s platform was built from a modification of the Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans’ rear-wheel drive systems. For the upcoming 2016 release, the Levante will come equipped with the Maserati-exclusive Q4 all-wheel drive.

Powertrain projections equip the 2016 Levante with either a 3.0-liter V6 engine or a 3.8-liter V8, both paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The most powerful of the two will offer 523 horsepower.

Those in the know expect the Levante to crush the zero to sixty mph test in just five seconds; however, that, like most of the information we have about the Levante, has yet to be officially shared or confirmed.

We haven’t seen the inside of the upcoming Levante; however, we can assume that it will probably share some of the interior details of the Ghibli, like a two-tone dashboard, which will likely house a large infotainment screen.

Despite its entry-level status, the Ghibli has been a critical component to the brand’s growth, allowing Maserati to explore new markets and segments, most importantly, the all-wheel drive segment.

Before the Ghibli, Maserati had not offered any vehicle with AWD, which put it at a significant disadvantage, compared to its AWD-offering competitors. Now, drivers can opt for AWD on the Ghibli and Quattroporte models, which has been crucial to the brand’s success.

According to Wester, “It was clear to us that being able to offer 4×4…would be one of the big game-changers for us. That option was especially important in the United States.”

The United States is important to Maserati’s profit margin. Last year, Maserati sales in the United States, across the country’s 106 dealerships, totaled 39 percent of the brand’s overall sales. In units, that equates to 14,690 vehicles sold, representing a 110 percent increase over 2013, thanks, in part to the addition of the 410 horsepower twin-turbo engines, and AWD availability, in both the Ghibli and Quattroporte.

It’s easy to imagine that sales of the 2016 Maserati Levante crossover SUV will return even higher sales figures in the SUV-loving land of the United States.

In honor of the brand’s racing legacy, we imagine that the 2016 Maserati Levante will feature a race-inspired steering wheel and instrument panel.

As one might expect from an SUV, the Maserati Levante will surely provide ample head and shoulder room for the driver and front seat passenger, while the backseats will likely be in line with the Ghibli’s, specifically from its legroom measurements.

Since this is the first SUV from Maserati, consumers will enjoy more cargo space than what is currently available in any other Maserati model.

Though we still don’t have official numbers, industry experts project the price of the 2016 Maserati Levante to start at a minimum of $80,000.

The diversification of the Maserati line is highly anticipated, not just from the 2016 Maserati Levante, but also the eventual release of the Alfieri sports coupe, as well as the Gran Turismo. However, these future cars are not distracting the automaker away from its successful sedans, coupes, and convertibles. The brand remains committed to its classics.

In Wester’s words, “We will work our way through 2015 – all the Levante preparation is running in the background. We are 100 percent focused on the cars we have.”

All of the rumors and speculation not withstanding, we are confident that the 2016 Maserati Levante will embody the brand’s mission of “Excellence Through Passion.”

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