Hiding beneath the hood of some of Maserati's best-selling sedans beats a secret heart of Detroit iron -- or rather, Detroit aluminum.
During the summer, workers at Chrysler Group's Trenton Engine Complex in suburban Detroit with no fanfare have been machining aluminum 3.0-liter V-6 engine blocks under the supervision of Ferrari engineers.
The blocks -- cast in Chrysler's foundry in Kokomo, Ind. -- are being shipped to Ferrari S.p.A. in Maranello, Italy, where they are finished for installation into Maserati's flagship Quattroporte and its new, hot-selling entry-level sedan, the Ghibli.
It's the first time that Chrysler -- now a wholly owned subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles -- has had a hand in producing engines for its parent company's luxury nameplates.
Brian Harlow, global head of powertrain manufacturing engineering for the now-combined automakers, said Chrysler is machining about 50 engine blocks per day for Maserati and soon will expand that to 80.
"It's been a real opportunity for us to learn what it means to work on high-performance engines," Harlow said.
"The level of quality is just supreme. We're going to benefit on our standard engines just because we're working on this smaller engine on a higher level."
The engine blocks are a source of pride for workers at Trenton Engine, which has built some legendary Chrysler engines, such as the Slant Six, an inline six-cylinder engine, and the 440 -- the largest V-8 ever made by Chrysler. Workers have placed signs around the plant touting it as Ferrari-certified and displaying the brand's famous prancing horse logo.
The block of the 3.0-liter V-6 is all aluminum with cast-in steel cylinder liners. Harlow said both the casting and the machining of the blocks are done to exacting tolerances.
"We collect more data on a piece-by-piece basis than on anything else that we do," Harlow said.
He said the V-6, with twin turbochargers, was designed by Ferrari and also is being machined in Europe by supplier Weber Automotive GmbH. But demand for the Maserati sedans began outstripping Weber's ability to keep up earlier this year.
That's when FCA's top leadership, including CEO Sergio Marchionne, looked to capacity in North America to fill the gap.
"It's a sensitive thing," Harlow said.
"We're Chrysler; they're Ferrari and Maserati. In no way do we want to impact in any negative way the image of either of those. We wanted to make sure we were getting it right, and we did. There's only one standard which we go by, and that's the Ferrari standard. They do not compromise."
Harlow said the interaction with Ferrari engineers "has been a good, collaborative effort," and some of the practices have been incorporated into Chrysler's other engine production.