Levante blazed the trail for more Maserati SUVs

Levante blazed the trail for more Maserati SUVs

The latest instalment in just-auto's analysis of FCA's passenger car brands' model lines is a focus on Maserati. A look at what's ahead for Alfa Romeo was recently published. This followed features on Fiat and Abarth, as well as another on Chrysler, Dodge and Ram. Ferrari comes next, with Jeep rounding out the series.

The high-margin Maserati business has a medium term volume target of 75,000 vehicles per annum, with new models being gradually added. As ever with all divisions at this automaker, future model plans change rapidly and often, so predicting what may or may not be ahead is especially tricky.

FCA seems to believe that an expanded three-pronged approach (pun not intended) could work wonders for Maserati. Given the success that Porsche continues to have with its sports cars, SUVs and a luxury hatchback in L and XL forms, the trident-logo marque could do a lot worse things than continue to build upon this idea.

No-one yet knows if Porsche's big gamble on an EV will translate into profits success, so Fiat Chrysler is wise to hold back on copying that idea. Not that it would be keen on committing the necessary major cash spend either, given its current indebtedness.

Regularly freshening and replacing vehicles is crucial.

What Maserati's management must really work hard on, is making sure that those who have expected miracles but not provided adequate funds see that that must change. Vehicles' life cycles must be kept to fewer than eight years; five to seven, ideally. Regularly freshening and replacing vehicles, Porsche-style, is equally crucial.

Maserati has an unhelpful legacy of keeping cars in production for way too long and having its publicly-known future model plans chopped and changed. That is the opposite of what people spending money on big-ticket luxury products want to see. All the brand-building activity in the world counts for nothing if there are no new cars with which to entice customers at relatively frequent intervals.

SUVs

Given the history of grand announcements from FCA which are then watered down or seemingly forgotten about, we should be cautious in fully believing just yet that there will be more Maserati SUVs. It's a great idea though.

An additional such model was claimed to be under development and due out in 2020, Sergio Marchionne told analysts in October 2017. While this would make sense - to have a vehicle which would compete with the Porsche Macan - such statements from the company do not always lead to the model in question reaching production, or reaching production on time.

Let's assume that all goes smoothly. Maserati could be expected to sell such a vehicle at the rate of perhaps 20,000 units per annum, although where it would be manufactured isn't yet clear. And we are talking about a model that is only 24-35 months away from series production.

The architecture of a smaller future SUV will likely be Giorgio.

The architecture will likely be Giorgio so FCA might well add it to the line at Cassino which makes the Alfas Giulia and Stelvio. Which would make sense, as a lot of the engineering work has already been done if it's going to share much with Alfa's SUV.

What would the model name be? After Levante, Ghibli and Alfieri, it seems the firm likes using words from Maserati's history as well as reviving dormant nameplates. There are many possibilities, including Mangusta, Merak, Indy, Khamsin and Karif.

A 4.7m long 4x4 would slot in below the brand's existing SUV which after a slow start, is now selling at a reasonable pace. At the Paris motor show in September 2012, Fiat stated that this model's name would be Levante, after the Via Emilia Levante in Bologna where the Maserati brothers originally envisioned the automaker. The model had for a time been expected to enter production in mid-2014 but series production didn't commence until February 2016.

The Levante, which is 5,003mm long, was officially revealed at the Geneva motor show in March 2016, production having commenced during the previous month. There will also be a PHEV variant but this might not appear until later in 2018 or even 2019.

There were four turbocharged engines at launch. Each has a standard eight-speed automatic gearbox and 'Q4' all-wheel drive: 

  • 250hp 3.0-litre VM Motori diesel V6
  • 275hp 3.0-litre VM Motori diesel V6
  • 350hp 3.0-litre Ferrari petrol V6
  • 430hp 3.0-litre Ferrari petrol V6

What Maserati calls its model year 2018 range of vehicles were all displayed at the Frankfurt IAA in September 2017. Among the changes was Electric Power Steering (EPS) for the Quattroporte, Ghibli and Levante, replacing hydraulic systems. This enables new Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS) with active functions.

The 530hp 3.8-litre Ferrari V8 from the Quattroporte is expected to become available in the Levante later in 2018.

Series production of another big Maserati SUV is probably as far away as late 2021.

An SUV in the segment above the Levante is said to be a model which FCA is looking into. A second, even larger SUV than the 5m long Levante, could work well in the same price range as the top end Quattroporte variants. The Bentley Bentayga would be the target vehicle. Series production of the big Maserati SUV is probably as far away as late 2021. 

Ferrari is understood to have been given the instruction to go after the Volkswagen Group's other vehicle in the super-SUV class: the Lamborghini Urus.

Sports cars and GTs

The future Alfieri coupe and convertible can be thought of a rivals for the Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera Cabriolet as well as the Jaguar F-TYPE hatchback and convertible. Not for the smaller and cheaper Porsche 718 Cayman and Boxster, as some have claimed.

This additional model had reportedly been due in European dealerships in 2016. In October 2015 came reports that these dates had become 2018 (coupe) and 2019 (roadster). A year later it was said that the Alfieri project was being pushed back to 2020/2021 due to the next GranTurismo and GranCabrio becoming Maserati's priority. The launch timing was then confirmed to just-auto.com in November 2016 by a Maserati marketing executive. The turbo V6 models are due in 2019/2020 with the electric car (see below) to follow in 2020.

The Alfieri concept at the 2014 Geneva motor show was a coupe and is said to have used the GranTurismo MC Stradale as its basis. The concept's wheelbase was shortened to 2,700mm, with length of 4,590mm, width of 1,930mm and height of 1,280mm. The production car should instead be based on a modified version of the platform which underpins the Quattroporte, Ghibli and Levante. It will have more aluminium in its construction than the sixth generation Quattroporte's platform.

The GranTurismo will have been built for more than 12 years.

The GranTurismo is easily Maserati's oldest model and it will remain in production until late 2019, giving it a more than 12-year production run. This big coupe had its global debut at the Geneva show in March 2007 and went on sale three months later.

A convertible bodystyle, the GranCabrio, had its world premiere at the Frankfurt motor show in September 2009.

Production of both the GranTurismo and GranCabrio had been due to end in November 2016 but the cars' lifecycles were extended. Facelifts were announced in June 2017. The updated GranTurismo was first seen outside the New York Stock Exchange on 28 June, followed a day later by the GranCabrio's debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.

The facelifted car is available in two model grades worldwide: Sport and MC. Both are powered by what is now the only engine, a 460hp 4.7-litre naturally aspirated V8 with maximum torque of 520Nm.

The GranTurismo and GranCabrio successors would be launched during 2015, Fiat stated in December 2012. At May 2014's investors' briefing by FCA, the GranTurismo replacement was simply listed as being due for launch in 2018 - no explanation for the delay was given.

An additional derivative, which will see the GranSport name revived, may also be under development. The GranCabrio had not been expected to be replaced but a Maserati executive confirmed to just-auto.com in November 2016 that a successor is indeed under development.

The next GranTurismo and GranCabrio are now due to be released in early 2020.

The next GranTurismo and GranCabrio are now due to be released in early 2020 and might use either an evolution of the Quattroporte's platform, or else Giorgio, as introduced by the Alfa Giulia. They will be more expensive as the Maserati model range expands. All of the brand's models are, and will continue to be, priced above Alfa Romeo but below Ferrari.

Sedans

The Ghibli is meant to be a rival for the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class. This large sedan had its global debut at the Shanghai motor show in April 2013. Both rear- and all-wheel drive variants are available. As for powertrains, there is a choice of turbocharged petrol and diesel V6 engines, plus an eight-speed automatic gearbox. This was the first diesel Maserati.

The Ferrari-designed 3.0-litre petrol turbo engine's aluminium block is cast by FCA US at its Kokomo plant in Indiana before being shipped to Europe for machining by Weber Automotive GmbH.

It is believed that an architecture created from the Chrysler Group's LX platform is the basis for the Ghibli. The platform is believed to be the same one as that used by the sixth generation Maserati Quattroporte.

Maserati revealed its model year 2016 Ghibli at the Frankfurt IAA in September 2015. The changes were minor. The 2017 model year Ghibli premiered at the 2016 Paris motor show. The main news was a 20hp rise in power to 350hp for the 3.0-litre petrol V6. A larger touchscreen/modified infotainment system was also new.

A facelifted Ghibli had its world debut at the Chengdu motor show in August 2017. The name also changed, the suffix 'GranLusso' being added and electric power steering replaced a hydraulic system.

The next Ghibli is due to hit the market during 2020.

The next Ghibli is due to hit the market during the third or fourth quarters of 2020. FCA is likely to switch this car to its Giorgio platform.

Maserati's other sedan is of course the Quattroporte. The sixth generation of the big four doors was launched to the press in December 2012, before making its debut at the Detroit motor show the following month. This was the first Quattroporte to offer all-wheel drive (LHD cars only).

Both 410hp 3.0-litre V6 (RWD or AWD) and 530hp 3.8-litre V8 (RWD only) gasoline engines featured until the arrival of more powerful cars for the 2018 model year. A special low-power version of the V6 is offered in the Chinese market. This 330hp 3.0-litre Twin Turbo variant premiered at the Shanghai motor show in April 2013.

A 3.0-litre V6 diesel premiered for the Quattroporte at the Frankfurt motor show in September 2013. It is offered in two states of tune: 184kW (250hp) for the Italian market and 202kW (275hp) for other countries.

The sixth generation Quattroporte's platform, though derived from Chrysler Group's LX architecture, shares only the electrical system, air conditioning components and front seat mounting points. The car itself is larger than the fifth generation model, which was necessary to make room for the Ghibli.

The Quattroporte is built at the former Bertone plant in the suburbs of Turin. It had been known as 'Officine Automobilistiche Grugliasco' (OAG) but Fiat renamed it 'Officine Maserati Grugliasco, Giovanni Agnelli' or AGAP for short.

The Quattroporte 7 is now believed to be due for launch during the first half of 2021.

Maserati revealed some minor changes for the Quattroporte at September 2015's Frankfurt IAA. These were for the model year 2016 range. For the 2017 model year, there was a facelift, with this range of variants announced to the media in June 2016. The car's motor show debut was three months later in Paris.

For MY2018, the Quattroporte S & S Q4 saw their outputs rise to 430hp and 580 Nm, respectively 20hp and 30Nm more than in the previous model year. The updated cars debuted at the Frankfurt IAA in September 2017.

There might be a major facelift towards the end of 2018 for the 2019 model year, the aim being to reignite sales and better distinguish the car from the smaller Ghibli. There is instead an alternative scenario: the Quattroporte 7 is believed to be due for launch during the first half of 2021 but some insiders have claimed that it could be brought forward.

Electric and electrified models

There may well be a PHEV version of the Levante but this might not appear until 2019. its powertrain would be a development of the Ferrari petrol engine rather than the VM diesel. As for an electric smaller SUV, that one would be a battery electric model but likely not available until 2022.

Also said to be on the way is an electrified Alfieri.

Also said to be on the way is an electrified Alfieri. This will absolutely need the lightest possible platform, which is why the architecture it and the combustion engine versions will be based upon will have so much aluminium content. The rechargeable Alfieri is due out during the third or fourth quarters of 2020. Initial reports spoke of this as a BEV but it now appears that the car will instead be a plug-in hybrid.

A Levante PHEV is said to be under development and even though this SUV used a RWD/AWD architecture, the powertrain will come from the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. Despite its model name, the big Chrysler minivan is a plug-in hybrid.

Battery-electric versions of the next Ghibli and Quattroporte seem less likely than other potential Maserati EV models. A PHEV Ghibli will probably become available in some US states, certain European countries and China during 2019. A Quattroporte PHEV with a slightly more powerful variation of the Ghibli plug-in hybrid's petrol-electric powertrain would be a logical addition to that model's range. It may even appear ahead of its smaller PHEV brother.

A fully electric next generation Quattroporte might be added to that car's line-up from 2022 or 2023.

Where to next?

What appears to be going on at Maserati looks from the outside a lot like a serious focus on this potential shining diamond of a business. The brand has one major issue, which is target buyers assuming that the cars are far more expensive than they are. What a fantastic problem to have. 

Reid Bigland, boss of both Alfa Romeo and Maserati since May 2016, appears to have brought much needed order in his latest role within FCA. New model launches have taken place, the cars have had first class reviews and are beginning to sell in steady numbers. Moreover, there have been no impetuously announced production numbers, which was once always the case with the Alfa brand at least. The idea of under-promising (or thus far, saying nothing at all about how many units will be built) then over-delivering seems to have been adopted.

Quiet, relentless progress is essential for a properly premium brand.

Quiet, relentless progress is essential for a properly premium brand. Not the intermittent destruction of employees' morale by issuing threats about perhaps closing plants, or talking publicly about maybe or maybe not delaying spending on future models.

Reid Bigland seems a smart man, and looking at his rise within FCA, clearly evinces ambition. So therefore we should keep an eye out for any reports of him insisting that far more cash be put into a further expansion of Maserati's product range and manufacturing activities. Should that happen, we'll know that where the greater opportunity lies amongst the two brands for which he has responsibility, has been sensed. 

It's a good strategy of the Agnelli family's John Elkann's to play several already very successful stars against one another, testing each. Who can deliver the greater returns - Group CFO Richard Palmer has modestly performed gigantic financial miracles, while Mike Manley has made Jeep and Ram massive earners. The head of Alfa-Maserati could well have a hitherto unseen genius for turning a tiny, tarnished trident into a large, luxuriant one. With platinum-plated prongs. One of these three men, plus perhaps COO for the EMEA markets, Alfredo Altavilla, will probably become the next CEO of FCA.

Future model plan reports for other manufacturers can be viewed in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

More data on vehicle lifetime and future product plans is available in PLDB from QUBE.