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'Mr Maserati' plans to sell 1,000 cars a year

Maserati is seeking three more dealers in the next phase of its UK development as a subsidiary of Ferrari with the intention of trebling sales to 1,000 a year.

Once open points at Cardiff, Bristol and North Kent are filled, the network will reach 20 outlets for Maserati, owned by Fiat since 1993.

This year Inchcape's Maranello Concessionaires, which also imports Ferrari to the UK, intends to sell about 330 Maserati 3200 GTs. An open-top Spider version is being developed for next year, when Maserati launches into the US. A third model is also in the pipeline.

Richard Mackay, appointed three months ago as UK Ferrari/Maserati managing director, said Ferrari capped its annual production at 4,000 cars a year, with about 400 sold in the UK.

Maserati limits its production to 10,000 a year – and again, 10% would come to Britain, he said. Mr Mackay launched Chrysler Jeep in the UK but on January 1 DaimlerChrysler took over direct distribution. He said it had been frustrating knowing he had the new job as long ago as last October but was unable to start until May.

“Ferrari will no longer be elitist or untouchable,” said Mr Mackay. “There will be a completely open approach. You might not be able to afford a Ferrari today, but possibly sometime in the future.”

He believed Maserati could be an exceptional franchise. “It now has the Ferrari halo and will go from strength to strength,” said Mr Mackay. “Driving a Maserati has always been a memorable experience. We are determined to ensure that motoring enthusiasts understand owning one is equally rewarding. “The Maserati warranty is being extended from two to three years or 60,000 miles next month. We will backdate it by offering this three-year term free of charge to existing owners whose cars have covered less than 60,000 miles.”

This reflects one of several curiosities about Maserati and its owners. Unlike Ferrari owners who will have at least one other and probably several other cars, Maserati ownesr tend to use their car as everyday transport.

According to Maserati in Italy, the annual average mileage of a Ferrari owner is 6,000, while the Maserati owner clocks up twice as many. Mr Mackay estimated that Ferrari mileage is even lower here in the UK.

In July, Mr Mackay hosted the first UK Maserati dealer conference and unveiled a new marketing strategy for the next 18 months. Finance and insurance deals organised through Maranello Financial Services are available to purchasers and Mr Mackay plans to extend these schemes to used cars. He said not many 10-year-old used cars were still worth £40,000 and traditional finance houses would not touch a car of that age.

Ferrari has faced a big challenge with Maserati since taking over the marque because of poor quality and reliability. Alessandro Gabrieli, financial and insurance managing director at Ferrari SpA, said Ferrari and Maserati would be sold side-by-side in markets worldwide.

“We have a different mission for the two brands,” he said. “Customers need to know the total cost of Maserati ownership though with Ferrari it is completely different. People who can afford a Ferrari know how to deal with their money.

“We want to be in charge of the customer relationship and exploit the Ferrari way of doing business. For Maserati, that's a must.” The UK – where Ferrari estimates that 65% of high-value cars are bought with some form of finance – has been a successful example of how in-house finance and insurance services can work on some of the world's most sought-after cars.

That programme was rolled out in Italy in February with Germany and Switzerland to follow. In Italy, the in-house scheme won 33% of all finance business within the first two months, a level of penetration which surprised Mr Gabrieli and his team. The 3200 was launched two years ago when Ferrari was still coming to terms with its new acquisition – rebuilding the production line was the first priority.

Since then, there has been continuous improvement intended to make the whole car feel better, from the way the doors open and shut to the fit and finish of the trim. Power for the 3200 GT comes from a 3.2-litre V8 engine producing 370bhp. Price is £59,925 (manual), or £61,981 (auto).

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