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Maserati to downsize

Mini-Maserati: The GranTurismo coupe could be joined by a smaller sibling within a few years.

Maserati chief puts new entry-level model, twin-turbo V6 and hybrid models on table

5 Feb 2010

MASERATI has revealed it is investigating the addition of a third model line in the form of a volume-selling small four-seater coupe to position below the GranTurismo.

The news was confirmed at the opening of Ateco Automotive’s $32 million headquarters and Ferrari Maserati Sydney dealership this week by Maserati SpA commercial director Raffaele Fusilli, who also said the next-generation Quattroporte would be lighter and more dynamic.

The most senior executive solely responsible for Maserati, which was recently grouped with fellow Fiat brands Alfa Romeo and Abarth under the direction of Harald Wester, added that future Maserati models were likely to be powered by twin-turbo petrol V6 and even hybrid drivetrains.

Asked about the prospect of an all-electric model from Maserati, however, Mr Fusilli said: “Never. We don’t think it’s the right way for Maserati.”

In the country to reveal Maserati’s new GranCabrio convertible to potential customers in Australia for the first time, Mr Fusilli said a third model line would progress beyond the planning stage if a profitable business case could be developed.

“For now we are launching the GranCabrio,” he said. “Then in the mid-term we are focussing on the revamp of our model range, for sure, and the first one will be the new (Quattroporte) four-door.

“Eventually it’s possible to think also of another model in our range… maybe smaller than the current models.

32 center imageLeft: Maserati global commercial director Raffaele Fusilli and Ferrari Maserati Sydney’s dealer principal, Edward Butler (below).

“We’re talking about that but it’s too early to anticipate something because we are at the start of this project and nothing has been started yet. For sure we are thinking about how to enlarge our presence in the segments. There are possibilities… opportunities.

“Maserati already gained a good position in terms of perception, so we are also analysing possibilities to eventually expand our range with a smaller version, but it has to fit first of all customer expectation and secondly it has to make a profit,” he said.

Mr Fusilli confirmed the newcomer would come with four seats, ruling it out as a replacement for the rejuvenated Italian brand’s original 2003-2008 two-seater Coupe and differentiating it from Ferrari’s two-seat sportscars.

“Our territory will remain four-seat,” he said, adding: “Ferrari is Ferrari, Maserati is Maserati”.

Asked if the all-new model would become Maserati’s top-selling model, Mr Fusilli said: “Yes, for sure”.

Maserati’s global commercial chief said development of the second-generation Quattroporte sedan, the historic marque’s most popular model ever, was well under way.

“We are working on the concept very well,” he said. “We are at a good point in terms of the concept right now.

“I would say the concept has been fixed, now is the time the engine arrives in the concept.

“I cannot tell you how and when the new four-door will arrive but for sure we are working on weight reduction, dynamic improvement, keeping the roominess, increasing the room in the trunk and other parts.

“What I’ve seen up to now is very exciting for the four-door, but… now is time to focus on what is here.”

With sales down 25 per cent for the Quattroporte between 2005 and 2008 – and 20 per cent for Maserati’s coupe in the same period – Mr Fusilli said his company would concentrate on lighter, more efficient models in the face of tightening emissions regulations globally.

“In general, we are all reflecting on how to reduce the consumption, the weight and be more efficient with the performance of the car,” he said.

“I’m not an engineer but we are fully involved with these issues. There are a lot of things Maserati could benefit from.

“The new generation of Maseratis for sure will be lighter – we will reduce weight… downsize the engine.

“We could talk now of downsizing engines, bi-turbo, V6. The point is to try to downsize the size of the engine. There is more flexibility with the V6 by putting a bi-turbo on the engine.”

When asked if Maserati’s hallowed V8 – the exclusive source of power for both the Quattroporte and GranTurismo – was in danger, Mr Fusilli suggested a twin-turbo petrol V6 could make its debut in the next Quattroporte.

“There is no decision taken but the new four-door will already take a new direction. I do not know what sort of sound the V6 will have in the next two or three years.

“But I’m not saying we are going to get rid of the V8… For sure the (V8) sound is part of our DNA. We have also to take care of the image of the brand.”

While sister company Ferrari has ruled out a six-cylinder model for the foreseeable future, the Prancing Horse brand is rumoured to be developing smaller-capacity turbocharged engines and has also confirmed it will reveal the first fruits of its development work with a hybrid drive system, fitted to the 599 at next month’s Geneva show.

Like Ferrari, Maserati has ruled out any possibility of an all-electric model, but Mr Fusilli said his company’s technology sharing arrangement could extend to Ferrari’s petrol-electric system.

“Hybrid for sure is one of the things on the table, but to be honest we didn’t yet choose a direction… We will share with Ferrari everything that fits our DNA in terms of engines, gearboxes, technology.

“Ferrari and Maserati are close, but have a different mission on the market so the relationship is perfect and when the package fits we can share with Ferrari.”

Mr Fusilli said Maserati remains committed to reducing the emissions of its cars – even if CO2 outputs are not high on its customer priority lists.

Asked if luxury car buyers care about the environment, he said: “If you want the polite answer: yes, the first question people who buy luxury cars ask is about CO2.

“But the real answer is no, absolutely not. But that doesn’t mean we don’t take care about it. Over its lifecycle the MiTo, Panda and 156 produces much more CO2 than a Maserati according to their mileage.”

Mr Fusilli fired a shot at what he described as an unjustified focus on the car industry when it comes to global warming.

“We have to reduce, for sure. (But) There is a sort of an obsession with car manufacturers when we know very well that only 10 per cent of the emissions in the world depend by cars when the rest depends by electricity, heating and industry.

“The general perception is the car is mainly responsible for global heating when it’s not true – it’s only 10 per cent.”

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