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Going Topless Helps Maserati Makes Inroads

Still, “room for improvement,” suggests maker’s U.S. boss.

by on Feb.04, 2011

Katie Couric lends a hand moving media mogul Barry Diller's Maserati out of a snowdrift in Central Park.

Snowstorms have a decidedly democratic streak, and so, when media mogul Barry Diller found himself stuck in a snowdrift in New York’s Central Park, he got a helping hand from another celeb slogging through the storm, CBS New talking head Katie Couric.

Whether Diller offered Couric a tip – or a ride – is uncertain, but it was likely the latter considering the high demand for the Maserati GranTurismo Convertible he was driving.

After years of struggling to make inroads in the normally luxury-friendly U.S. market, the Italian automaker is finally gaining some traction, with or without Couric’s help.  While the overall luxury car market rebounded by 15% last year, Maserati sales jumped 49% — then delivered another 13% increase in January.

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“We had a good year,” suggested an understated Mark McNabb, the industry veteran who signed on as Maserati’s top American executive, last year.  The goal going into 2010, he said, was simply to “maintain the pace” with the rest of the luxury market, and perhaps pick up some incremental volume with the launch of the GT Convertible.  The new ragtop wildly exceeded expectations.

That’s good news for the nearly century-old maker, which some thought might be forced to abandon U.S. shores, as it had done back in 1990.  Back then, Maserati was struggling after years of mis-management under the helm of one-time racer Alessandro de Tomaso, who had taken control in 1975.