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Maserati out with Kubang!

Big 'bang over: It's all about the sports cars at Maserati.

Maserati nixes its SUV but is now preparing a Porsche Boxster beater

27 Oct 2005

MASERATI has signalled its intention to build a Porsche Boxster rival.

The "affordable" convertible is one of three front-engine, rear-drive V8 sportscars from the Italian thoroughbred car-maker set to appear over the next three years, the others being a new GT and Cabrio-Spyder.

Maserati’s commercial director for the Far East, Simone Niccolai, revealed last week in Sydney that the two-seater convertible would compete in the circa-$110,000 SLK and Boxster arena and "presents an opportunity for us".

He said this segment was growing "but at the moment nothing is defined” in terms of what the Maserati rival would look like.

"We have a design proposal with Pininfarina but we are still evaluating which styling and which way to go," he said.

Mr Niccolai also laid to rest speculation that Maserati would build a Porsche Cayenne style 4WD – similar to the Kubang concept in 2003 – saying such a car “was no longer in consideration”.

"We have been analysing the SUV and it’s not in the pipeline," he said.

It is believed the company is considering a crossover all-wheel drive wagon based on an Alfa Romeo vehicle.

Mr Niccolai said that now Alfa Romeo had responsibility for Maserati there would be operational synergies between the pair. He said both were sporty brands that could share technical solutions, although the link with Ferrari – including the supply of V8 engines – would remain.

"Maserati will keep its own characteristic and style and sportiness. The cars are built by hand with limited production. Those elements will still be in place," he said.

Less clear is whether Alfa powertrains will eventually make it into Maserati cars but Mr Niccolai said platforms would be shared but Maserati cars would still have their own identity.

"It’s smart business to keep your own characteristics," he said.

However, Mr Niccolai said he did not see it as a problem that Alfa engines could end up in Maseratis, as long as the technology was appropriate.

Earlier this year Fiat, which owns 56 per cent of Ferrari and controls Maserati assumed the running of Maserati from Ferrari and put the exclusive brand under the mantle of Alfa Romeo.

However, Mr Niccolai said the company would not move into more mass-market vehicles to compete with the likes of the BMW 3 Series, or a Mercedes CLS four-door-style coupe.

"I don’t want to bring Maserati down in terms of its position," he said.

That segment can be covered by other brands in the group, such as Alfa Romeo, he said.

The biggest addition to the Maserati line-up within the next few years will be a new six-speed fully automatic ZF transmission for the Quattroporte, which could potentially double sales of the car.

So far this year, Maserati has sold 73 cars in Australia compared with just six for the first two months of 2003.

Maserati Australia expects to sell between 115 and 120 cars for 2006, a 30 per cent lift over current sales.

WHAT’S COMING
Quattroporte Executive GT Mar 2006
Quattroporte Sport GT Mar 2006
Kubang GT 2007
Circa-$110,000 convertible 2007
Cabrio-convertible Spyder 2008
Crossover AWD station wagon 2008

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