MODENA, Italy - Maserati's strategy for returning to profitability in 2000 at the earliest depends on three elements:
Heavy investment in new products and production processes
Radical reorganization of the distribution and sales structure
Complete integration of Maserati's management with Ferrari's.
Maserati lost L21 billion ($12 million) on sales of L25 billion last year, when it sold 698 cars. In 1996 it lost L50 billion.
Fiat gave Ferrari management control of Maserati in July last year, together with 50 percent of Maserati's shares. Fiat retains the other 50 percent, but these shares may be sold to Ferrari when Maserati is profitable again.
Ferrari's first move was to stop production at Maserati's Viale Ciro Menotti plant in Modena for five months. The production line was totally rebuilt using machinery from Fiat subsidiary Comau at a cost of L20 billion, including five new engine test benches.
The line will be able to accommodate final assembly of the current Ghibli coupe and Quattroporte sedan, and the new 2+2 coupe and its spider derivative.
Maserati bodies-in-white are built in Turin by GoldenCar and painted in Modena by Ferrari.
Maserati is responsible only for final assembly and engine production. The V-6 and V-8 engine line has a capacity of 30 engines a day, or 6,600 a year. Every engine is bench-tested for three hours before being fitted to the car.
Ferrari's second move was to delay the launch of Maserati's planned new coupe for one year. The 2+2 coupe will replace the Ghibli. It would have debuted at the Frankfurt auto show last September, but it was delayed until Paris this October.
A two-seat spider will appear 18 months after the coupe.
Ferrari Managing Director Paolo Marinsek expects Maserati production of around 1,000 units this year, rising to 6,500 in 2005.
In 2001 Maserati plans to re-enter the US market with the 2+2 coupe and the spider. The Quattroporte sedan will not be sold there.
Ferrari is reorganizing Maserati's sales and distribution network.
The number of Maserati dealerships will be increased from 61 to 115 by the end of the year. Most Maserati dealers will be existing Ferrari dealers who add the line. Only 25 of the original 61 Maserati outlets will survive.
By 1999 Maserati will be in 39 countries, up from the current 19.
Ferrari decided that there is no direct competition between the two brands. First, because Maseratis start at about $69,000 and Ferraris at over $127,000. Second, because Maserati's aim is to make fast GT cars, while Ferrari's aim is to build extreme performance cars.
In the long term, Ferrari dealers will be asked to have a specific Maserati showroom. For the moment, they just need to separate the cars in the showroom and have dedicated sales and service personnel.
All Maserati management functions now report to the director of the same function at Ferrari. Most managers of production car functions report directly to Marinsek.
Fiat bought 49 percent of Maserati in 1989 and the rest in 1993.
Fiat paid a total of L207.6 billion ($118 million).