Italian luxury car brand Maserati is becoming more accessible. Yes, seriously. It wants to expand its product portfolio, lower the entry point for customers, increase its UK dealer network and ramp up annual new car sales to more than four times its current numbers.
Looking first at the products, it seems Fiat Group Automobiles may finally be getting it right. It has given up on telling everyone its Alfa Romeo brand is a credible alternative to the prestige of BMW and Mercedes-Benz for company middle-management, and realised that the 100-year-old Maserati marque actually could be.
To that end, there is the first ever diesel engine installed behind a grille bearing the famous trident emblem.
It’s a 275bhp twin-turbodiesel V6, so customers won’t feel that Maserati has sold out its sporting heritage, and its use in the entry model Ghibli means that the range starts at £48,830 – that’s in the same price bracket as the Audi A7 or Mercedes-Benz CLS.
Maserati has worked hard to address past reptation for unreliability
Recognising the corporate market’s need to balance the luxury and prestige with acceptable running costs and that Maserati has a past reputation for unreliability, the brand has worked hard to reduce its service and maintenance costs to a reasonable level. The new car can be serviced in two hours, compared to the four-hour services that previous-generation Maseratis demanded.
Service intervals are every 12,500 miles and it has a three-year unlimited mileage warranty. Monthly contract hire rates are £700-£800.
Providing Maserati’s marketing can reach the corporate audience, through examples such as attendance of the Fleet News Company Car In Action event in June and sponsorship of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association’s annual dinner, its sales executives shouldn’t struggle too much to get prospective buyers into a demonstrator.
It has also appointed its first national corporate sales manager, former Toyota and Lexus contract hire and leasing manager Graeme Jenkins.
The Ghibli demonstrator drive is going to be crucial
That demonstrator drive is going to be crucial. Even with the diesel under the bonnet, the Ghibli feels special and encourages an emotional connection from the driver. Its interior, designed like a double cockpit, features luxuries such as full leather upholstery, 8.4in touchscreen infotainment system, engine starter button and dual-zone climate control. Acoustic trickery also gives the engine a reasonably gutsy note, impressive for a diesel.
The Ghibli is a vital car for Maserati. Last year, the brand achieved 319 UK registrations. In 2014 it expects to have 1,500, of which 1,000 will be Ghibli models with 70% of those the diesel. An SUV will join the range in 2015, creating incremental sales.
“It’s an enormous leap in volume, but it is manageable,” said David Aldcroft, dealer development manager for Maserati North Europe.
Expansion of the franchised network has already begun, taking it from 13 sales points in 2012 to 19 currently. Maserati GB sees a network of 30 points as possible by the end of 2015. The aim is to have a dealership within a 50-minute drive of all its key markets.
Moving Maserati's showroom away from Ferrari
A feature of the longer-established Maserati dealerships was their sharing showrooms with Ferrari. The new dealerships are solus, although may share a roof or site with another marque. One reason for this is that Maserati wants its showrooms to be less intimidating and more comfortable places for its new customers to spend time while their car is being serviced.
Aldcroft said Maserati is adamant that the customer experience will not suffer as volumes increase. All corporate customers will receive a full retail handover at a dealership, dealers will be encouraged to offer Maserati courtesy cars, or to offer collection and delivery in aftersales.
“When you’re a brand selling 200 to 300 cars, you can know every customer. At the dealer level, we want to overlay that on to our new customers, so that they get the same extra care and attention,” he said.
What’s been said about the Ghibli
MSN Cars UK
The Ghibli pulls the heart strings in all the right places and we have no doubt they’ll shift every one of them to people wanting a change from the Germanic competition. The Ghibli lacks polish in one or two areas, but we’re inclined to forgive the Maser a few faults for the chance to own a beautiful slice of Italian design.
Overall, the Ghibli is a surprisingly accomplished effort, and one that fleets can offer senior staff with confidence that, while it performs like an Italian exotic car should on the road, its costs compare well with best performing rivals.