When William Peffer Jr. came onboard last year as Maserati Americas’ chief executive officer, he found an automaker with an aging product range producing more cars than demand warranted.
The company was pushing its cars on dealers, rather than demand dictating production. “We were building probably too many cars (with) not enough supply or too much supply (with) not enough demand,” Peffer said.
This led to Maseratis being sold on price and low buyer loyalty.
“When the dealers operated on price, if you tried to raise the price, then buyers either wouldn’t or couldn’t move with you and they jumped out immediately,” Peffer said. “If you look at our loyalty, it’s low compared to other luxury brands.”
But it also had an effect on the product’s image.
“When you’re competing on price you move the brand into premium space not luxury space, where there’s a wide list of huge competitors. So, you’re competing now in a different pond, where there’s a lot more proliferation and in different segments, a lot more choices. That that was not a winning formula for us. By walking away from that, it has made the brand healthier and more sustainable.”
Peffer knew the company had to change. It was pushing luxury sedans and GTs in a market besotted by SUVs.
So changes were made. Dealers were going to order all their own cars, and the company refocused its marketing efforts on their sole SUV, the Levante, knowing it was about to be joined by the Grecale, an all-new luxury compact SUV that reaches U.S. showrooms in the fall.
“We started to push and drive the brand in the direction of being a performance SUV provider, because that’s what the market is; 80% of the market in the U.S. mass market is SUV. Now we’re seeing that same thing on the luxury side of the business.”
A small product line-up
But Peffer knew just how small Maserati is, and realized he couldn’t compete head-on with German automakers in every segment.
“We will never proliferate into as many segments as some of our primary competitors,” Peffer said. “One of the benefits of Maserati is you don’t see one every street corner.”
That dedication to keeping the brand small and special is a hallmark of luxury manufacturing, class production, not mass production. By keeping its products exclusive and exquisitely made, the company can command higher prices.
“We really have gotten off of price access selling. So there’s a subset of customers that we’ve had in the past that either can’t or won’t move with us as we raise transaction prices.”
But Maserati shored up its brand in other ways. The automaker joined other European and Japanese brands in establishing a classic center, Maserati Classiche, in December.
The company also realigned its trim strategy, which will now be the same across its entire line-up. It starts with GT, and ascends to Modena and tops out with Trofeo — for now.
Yet the reorientation is already having a positive effect. Despite the lack of new product — Maserati’s MC20 supercar didn’t reach showrooms until December 2021 — sales rose 24.2% to 7,615 units in the U.S. market in 2021, up from the brand’s pandemic low of 5,766 sales. But that’s still 44.4% lower than the 13,697 units the brand sold in 2017, just after the launch of the Levante SUV in March 2016.
A small SUV could lead to bigger sales
The launch of the Maserati MC20 supercar in December marked a turnaround of sorts for Maserati. “The car starts at $212,000; but most are going out the door at $250,000 to $300,000,” Peffer said.
It’s the start of a regular product cadence, something the company has lacked for decades. Within a 14-to-15-month timeframe, Maserati will introduce three new products, doubling the size of its line-up to six models from the current portfolio of Ghibli, Quattroporte and Levante.
“I think there’s room for Maserati in North America to compete in three places: sedans, SUVs and supercars,” Peffer said.
The first salvo comes in the form of the Grecale, a compact SUV that competes in a segment that accounts for one in three luxury vehicles sold in the U.S. Built on Stellantis’ Georgio architecture that also underpins the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, the Grecale comes with a choice of two hybrid drivelines and a V-6.
The engines for the Grecale were developed inhouse, with the V-6 derived from the MC20’s powerplant.
“Our existing line-up has a lot of Ferrari-sourced engines in it, 6- and 8-cylinder engines. This was our first dedicated engine. No other brand shares it with Maserati. That actually helped get us on the conversation table with where we were heading with our product.”
In addition, the Grecale will get an all-electric version in fall 2023, the start of electrification for the Italian manufacturer. Peffer expects Grecale will account for more than 40% of Maserati’s overall volume.
“This car will become the franchise vehicle for us. “We were excited to have both exist and we think with the two SUV line-up particularly in the U.S. It will further legitimize the Maserati brand as a performance luxury SUV provider.”
But it’s also electrifying.
Watt’s up with that?
Last month, Maserati revealed its plans to electrify its line-up by 2025, with those new models wearing the name Folgore, the Italian word for Lightning. It plans to go full electric by 2030.
The first model to wear the nameplate is the GranTurismo Folgore, a two-door, four-seater sports car with “way over 1200+” horsepower, according to Maserati. It will be joined shortly thereafter by the Grecale Folgore in fall 2023.
Uniquely, Maserati is one of the few mass market, premium or luxury brands still making investments in both internal combustion engines as well as electrification.
“The customer is going to decide as the technology adapts, what the rates going to be, and we have the flexibility of ramping up ramping down based on that,” Peffer said.
“It’s a long horizon. There’s a lot of runway between now in 2030, and that’s why we’re doing it.”
Source: The Detroit Bureau Read More