TURIN - Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has bold plans for the automaker's Maserati luxury sports car unit: to boost annual sales almost tenfold to 50,000 units from 5,675 last year.
Three new models are key to this midterm goal and all are based on systems and components from Chrysler Group.
Maserati will introduce two new sedans to replace its Quattroporte flagship model using technology from Chrysler's large sedans such as the Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Avenger.
The third new Maserati will be the company's first SUV. Chrysler will build it alongside the Jeep Grand Cherokee in the Jefferson North plant in Detroit.
Maserati officials say the new models will not be rebadged Chryslers. They will have different bodies and interiors, as well as new front and rear suspensions and dedicated powertrains. The parts is sharing will be where the customer does not see it, the same as in the Bentley Continental, which is a rebodied Volkswagen Phaeton.
Quattroporte's size problem
Maserati's two new sedans will be produced at the Officine Automobilistiche Grugliasco (OAG), the new name Fiat gave to the former Carrozzeria Bertone factory it bought in 2009. Maserati will invest 550 million euros ($774 million) to refurbish the plant and launch the models.
The sedans will solve the current Quattroporte's size problem. The car is too big to be a compelling driver's car, but too small - particularly in terms of rear legroom - to serve as a good chauffeur's car.
The problem will be resolved by offering two cars - a "baby" Quattroporte, code-named M157 and a larger Quattroporte, code-named M156.
The "baby" Quattroporte will launch next year and is designed to be a driver's car and compete with rivals such as the Audi A6, the BMW 5 series and the Mercedes E class.
The project was initially conceived as a flagship model for the Alfa Romeo brand, but was switched to Maserati because this brand could win a higher pricing point and already has a global distribution network.
The new model keeps Maserati's traditional layout of a front longitudinal engine and rear-wheel drive.
The car will use a heavily revised, high performance version of the Chrysler V-6 Pentastar engine. With capacity reduced to 3.0-liter, the addition of Fiat's fuel-saving MultiAir air management system, twin turbocharging and direct injection, this variant will deliver over 400-hp and good fuel economy. The most powerful version of the 3.6-liter Pentastar currently delivers 305hp on the Dodge Challenger.