by Gabe Beita Kiser
Men like to say women are complicated. It’s actually bean counters at auto companies that are most confusing.
Reid Bigland, an FCA heavyweight that holds the title of being boss of Alfa Romeo and Maserati, is a Canadian. And here’s the part where stereotypes go wrong: he won’t profusely apologize for anything, not even the chronic tardiness of the long-awaited Maserati Alfieri that’s been in the cards long enough to make the concept on which it’s based look like it’s in need of a refresh. He did, however, give Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport a glimpse into his company’s future as well as that of the Alfieri.
Before we get to that, here’s a snapshot of Maserati’s current situation for context. Last year, the company sold 42,000 cars worldwide, with 18,000 of those being moved by American Maserati dealerships and another 15,000 sold in China. Bigland hopes the number of total sales will land 25,000 paces north of 2016’s worldwide numbers, and new Levante variants could be ushered in to make that happen. The problem is that Maserati doesn’t want to move the Levante any lower in class by offering less powerful models, but European regulations disadvantage powerful V8s. We’ve already heard that electrification is on the table to get around this problem, but that’s not the only card Maserati has up its sleeve.
Naturally, this meandering path leads to another SUV, an option that Bigland did not leave off the table when asked if more crossovers were a possibility. “If customer preference (for SUVs) continues to evolve, certainly,” he answered. “Porsche is a good example of this – they now build a majority of SUVs, although everyone thinks of this sports car.” Maserati’s problem, as Bigland pointed out, would be retaining the brand identity of a sports car company while selling mostly SUVs. To Porsche’s advantage, it has iconic models like the 911 and range-topping 918 Spyder to represent the brand, but the Maserati Gran Turismo is too advanced in its age to play ambassador for much longer.
Maserati is springing for a refresh of the Gran Turismo and it’s topless counterpart, the Gran Cabrio, but the real burden of winning the hearts and minds of the people will be borne by the Alfieri. No mention on when that car will finally hopefully maybe kinda come to market, but when it does, expect it to be a true sports car rather than just a 2+2 seat grand tourer. The ambiguity in Bigland’s statements makes it sound like there are a lot more “ifs” than “whens” at Maserati, but rest assured the suspense is probably killing the automaker more than it’s affecting us.