With the Levante already the most popular model in its history, Maserati is readying a second SUV, CEO Sergio Marchionne has revealed, a critical step in meeting the luxury brand’s business plan.
The new model, Marchionne hinted during this week’s Fiat Chrysler Automobiles earnings conference call, will be smaller than the midsize five-seat Levante. That would position the Italian luxury brand in one of the world’s fastest-growing market segments and target competitors ranging from the Jaguar E-Pace to the Porsche Macan.
Maserati sold about 40,000 vehicles last year, the Levante largely responsible for a 27% year-over-year increase. But the maker’s target is somewhere closer to 80,000, and EBIT earnings of 1 billion euros. “We should be able to get there” with the addition of a second ute, Marchionne said during the call with investors and journalists.
Founded in 1914, Maserati has long been known for building exotic sports cars like the Ghibli. So, there was more than a bit of pushback from traditionalists when Marchionne first announced plans to add an SUV, initially to be called the Kubang, and later renamed Levante.
But it became difficult to argue with the logic considering the fast-moving shift in the global auto industry. Today, light trucks, and SUVs in particular, account for about two-thirds of the overall U.S. American market and nearly that much in the luxury segment as more manufacturers enter the fray. Off to a slower start, markets like Europe and China have begun rapidly catching up over the last several years.
It’s difficult to find a luxury brand that hasn’t entered the SUV market. This week, BMW revealed its latest addition to a broad portfolio, the 2018 X2, and utes now dominate the sales charts for the Bavarian maker and its key rivals Mercedes-Benz and Audi, as well as more exotic Porsche.
(Click Here to check out the 2018 BMW X2 xDrive28i.)
The Jaguar F-Pace is already the brand’s best-seller, with two new models, the smaller E-Pace and all-electric I-Pace, coming. Bentley is struggling to meet demand for its big Bentayga and even Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini have utes in the works.
Perhaps the biggest surprise came with the news, earlier this month, that Ferrari will add a utility vehicle. “We’re dead serious about this,” said Marchionne, who also serves as Ferrari CEO, during an appearance at the New York Stock Exchange.
(Click Here for more on Ferrari’s planned SUV.)
And then there’s Alfa Romeo, Maserati’s only slightly down-market Italian sibling. It is rapidly ticking off orders for its new Stelvio, with at least one, and likely two, more SUVs in the works.
The Levante has become the best-seller for Maserati, a key reason why Maserati’s global sales are up another 50% so far this year, a total of 36,000 vehicles in all through the end of September.
The new model is expected to share the same platform as Alfa’s Stelvio model – which also is the platform for the Giulia.
Currently, Levante uses a Ferrari-derived engine. Exactly what powertrain the smaller ute will use is uncertain, though some are speculating it would be on Maserati’s own design.
Meanwhile, an electrified driveline could be in the works. Marchionne announced in August that Maserati will become FCA’s leader in the development of battery-based vehicles, and luxury makers generally have been looking to their SUVs as first priority for adding hybrids, plug-ins and pure battery-electric models. The Levante is also expected to get some form of hybrid or plug-in option before decade’s end.
(Improving numbers at Maserati, Alfa Romeo help boost parent FCA’s Q3 earnings. Click Here for more.)