Chas­ing the big hit­ters

Maserati will break new ground with its next two mod­els

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige News - NEIL DOWL­ING neil.dowl­ing@cars­

AN­OTHER mid-size pres­tige saloon is be­ing pre­pared to take on the big Euro­pean hit­ters from Ger­many.

Fresh from hint­ing at a new SUV to take on the Porsche Cayenne, Maserati has qui­etly let it slip that it is fi­nal­is­ing de­tails of its 5-Se­ries/A6/EClass ri­val. The saloon, ef­fec­tively a down­sized Qu­at­tro­porte, may be ready for sale in Europe by late 2013.

It will be joined in the show­room by the new Qu­at­tro­porte which, it has been sug­gested to

Cars­guide while in Mo­dena, Italy, will be slightly big­ger to em­pha­sise more cabin room.

The mid-size car will use a tweaked ver­sion of the 4.2-litre V8 and the op­tion of the 4.7-litre V8. It will have a con­ven­tional driv­e­train with a six-speed ZF au­to­matic— and dou­ble-wish­bone sus­pen­sion at all corners.

The new Qu­at­tro­porte will have only the 4.7-litre en­gine, but in two states of tune.

It is un­der­stood the new SUV— a tall coupe-styled car with all-wheel drive— will use driv­e­train com­po­nents and prob­a­bly the plat­form of the Jeep Grand Chero­kee, but not with a Fer­rari V12 as has been sug­gested. A diesel en­gine hasn’t been dis­cussed.

The SUV is re­garded as the be­lated pro­duc­tion ver­sion of the 2003 Kubang con­cept, de­signed by Gi­u­giaro.

A Maserati spokesman said the new mid-size and the big­ger saloon were be­ing for­mu­lated for fi­nal de­sign and en­gine choices.

The pos­si­bil­i­ties are greater af­ter the com­pany’s boom pro­duc­tion year and a $35 mil­lion profit, plus the sup­port of its par­ent Fiat. Maserati has re­ported its 2010 profit, to­gether with the year’s 5777 unit sales, which was up about 18 per cent on 2009.

Maserati spokesman Luca Dal Monte ad­mits 2009 was a de­pressed year be­cause of the GFC— but one in which it still re­ported a $15 mil­lion profit on sales of less than 5000 cars.

How­ever, it is a far cry from the record sales year of 2008, when Maserati made 8586 cars and one that may not be re­peated soon. Dal Monte pre­dicts 2011 will have ‘‘ about the same sales as 2010’’.

When asked whether prod­uct de­vel­op­ment would be sti­fled by mod­est sales in­creases, he said that it was in­ci­den­tal, adding: ‘‘ Profit doesn’t af­fect fu­ture de­vel­op­ment . . . we are part of the Fiat Group.’’

Fiat bought Maserati in 1993 but it wasn’t un­til 2007 that it made its first profit for some decades. In 2008, thanks to new mod­els, profit tripled over 2007 to about $110 mil­lion.

The 2010 year saw a 47 per cent in­crease in sales in the US; 54 per cent in China (off a low base, as 402 cars sold that year); and 46 per cent in the UK.

Ear­lier this month, Maserati opened a deal­er­ship in In­dia.

Maserati, like Fer­rari, builds to cus­tomer or­ders un­der the phi­los­o­phy of mak­ing ‘‘ one car less than is or­dered’’. It car­ries no stock, which has a min­i­mal down­side for the com­pany should global car sales slump.

Built to or­der: The Maserati Gran Turismo MCS­tradale and (be­low) the Kubang

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