Maserati can be described as a bittersweet story within the Fiat group. It has historically been a luxury car marque closely associated with Ferrari and the best of the Italian automotive industry. After decades of racing and several ownerships, the marque became part of Fiat in the 1990s and a lot has happened since then.
The arrival of Italy's largest automaker has meant many opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, Fiat brought in not only cash, but also its factories and global presence. Maserati could therefore finally breathe thanks to these resources and capabilities. On the other hand, the arrival of the Agnellis also meant more bureaucracy and less flexibility.
In 2002, ten years after the acquisition by Fiat, global sales of Maserati amounted to 3,300 units. It was a niche luxury brand, featuring only three models: the Coupe, the Spyder, and the 3200 GT. This limited supply endured for at least another 10 years. Maserati positioned itself as the younger brother of the sporty Ferrari brand, and large volumes were not part of the plan.
Everything changed when, in 2010, Fiat announced that Maserati would join a new luxury/premium group, which would also include Alfa Romeo and Abarth. "Sporting characteristics and performance" were the common values.
The expansion began in 2013 when Maserati introduced two new saloons, the Quattroporte and Ghibli, just as global markets were clearly shifting from saloons, estates, hatchbacks, and MPVs to SUVs. The luxury brand decided to go directly against well-positioned premium brands such as Mercedes and BMW. And it worked, at least at first.
In 2014, Maserati sold a record 32,800 units, or more than seven times the volume sold five years earlier. Niche branding was a thing of the past. Now, under the FCA Group, Maserati could think bigger and expand its presence abroad with refined products that in some cases used Ferrari engines.
The pace of growth accelerated with the arrival of the Levante, the brand's first SUV. At the time of its presentation in 2016, direct rival Porsche had already been selling the Cayenne for 14 years. In 2017, the company set an all-time sales record with 49,000 units.
While the Levante was rapidly gaining ground in the luxury SUV segment, the rest of the lineup was ageing rapidly with no new generations arriving anytime soon.
As global saloon volumes continued to decline, Maserati delayed the development of an eventual new generation of the Ghibli and Quattroporte, already six years old as of 2018. Thus, the lack of new products and the ageing Levante negatively impacted global sales. Volume dropped by 29 percent between 2017 and 2018, by 26 percent between 2018 and 2019, 7 percent between 2019 and 2021 (excluding 2020, when the pandemic hit the markets), and 4 percent between 2021 and 2022.
Fortunately, Maserati fought back in 2021, when it began a series of launches that continued into this year. The MC20, the MC20 Cielo, the Grecale, and the brand-new Granturismo are giving life to the brand. They are characterised by the true Maserati DNA in terms of design, technology, and quality. But will they be enough to put Maserati back on the radar?
The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is an Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO Dynamics.