Since Ferrari had an initial public offering several years ago, about two-thirds of the shares are now owned by public investors and only 23% is owned by Stellantis. That makes Maserati the flagship Italian brand within the Stellantis conglomerate. Despite only accounting for €2 billion of the €152 billion total revenue for the company and just under 25,000 sales, Stellantis remains strongly committed to rebuilding the value of Maserati. That will include making the brand fully electric over the course of this decade.
During a media roundtable, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares and Maserati CEO Davide Grasso laid out the direction for the brand over the coming years. First and foremost, Tavares emphasized that quality must be the top priority for Maserati and the brand has no plans to go chasing volume.
Maserati has faced many challenges over its 108 year history and there have been periods in the not too distant past where its annual sales volumes could be measured in three digits. Thus 25,000 sales is already a high point for the company and more than double what Ferrari sold last year. Tavares and Grasso declined to discuss whether the brand is actually profitable, but Tavares discussed the need to improve the value of the brand to customers.
“I think that the wealthy customers are very sensitive to brand,” said Tavares. “They consider that brand expresses something about who they are and what kind of statement they want to do with the society.”
While Maserati has always been perceived as a luxury brand with style and performance, the quality of the products has often been considered less than top notch, which has in turn led to poor residual values relative to competitors.
Responding to a question about delays to new products such as the Gran Turismo, Tavares added, “it’s a fair point that you are raising indeed, we have decided with Davide Grasso that Maserati was first a brand that was high quality. It is obvious that the luxury brand needs to be high quality. One thing is to say it and decide it, another thing is to do it. So we have been implementing very, very strong, powerful efforts to achieve great results. Today, I am here in the Modena plant and I can tell you the progress that this plant has been doing with quality is tremendous.”
With the goal of improving residual values to help make the products more appealing to wealthy customers, Tavares committed to improving that quality and also remaining disciplined on pricing. While discounts can help push the metal, at least for Maserati, Tavares prefers to create an environment where there is a pull from customers rather than a push from the factory. This may indeed lead to some volume reduction in the near term, but if Maserati can execute on the things it wants to do, it should benefit the brand in the long run.
While any automotive brand and especially one that is to be perceived as premium has to focus on quality, Maserati is doing all this while it also prepares to go electric. The first two electric Maseratis are arriving in the next 18 months starting with the GranTurismo Folgore and then the Grecale Folgore. The Folgore (Italian for lightning) badge will be used to designate battery powered vehicles in the Maserati lineup. “Our wealthy customers are people who do not want to be under the social pressure of driving vehicles with high emissions so they will be I’m sure embracing zero emission vehicles, because they are better cars,” added Tavares.
Eventually all of the lineup will be electrified which raises an interesting question about the design direction for the brand. There have been distinct paths chosen by various automakers in recent years for EV design with BMW and Mercedes-Benz being prime examples. While BMW has built distinctly styled electric vehicles like the i3, it has also adapted the designs of internal combustion models like the i4 and i7. Even the electric only iX features a traditional long hood design. Mercedes-Benz on the other hand has created a much sleeker, optimized shape at least for its electric sedans, the EQE and EQS.
Current Maseratis and even the new GranTurismo feature a very classical Italian performance shape that is clearly driven by the internal combustion architecture. Whether those voluptuous curves remain a key component of the way Maseratis look a decade from now, remains to be seen.
For now at least, it appears that Maserati will stick with its existing design language at least for the GranTurismo Folgore. “ What we have decided so far, what Davide has decided so far, is a perfect positioning of design visa vie the GranTurismo brand positioning which is the convergence between performance and art of travel,” said Tavares.
“So, stay tuned, you see further evolution of the Maserati brand through the product by leveraging the incredible opportunities we have of differentiating our platforms, leveraging what the wealth of Stellantis will put us in condition to do,” added Grasso. So we shouldn’t expect anything looking like a Tesla or Lucid in the near future, but an evolution is probable.
To help promote the brand heritage, Maserati is again taking a more active role in motorsports beginning in 2023 with two distinctly different efforts. On the traditional side, Maserati is introducing a GT2 class variant of the new MC20 sports car for the Fanatec GT2 championship in Europe.
As with road cars, the new approach to racing is an entry into the FIA Formula E championship. 2023 brings the debut of the third-generation Formula E race cars that are faster, have more range and will for the first time feature some in-race fast charging. Stellantis has been involved in Formula E through its DS brand and has won several championships. As with road cars, the Maserati entry will join DS in 2023 sharing much of its technology, but with Maserati engineers doing their own optimizing and tuning. In Formula E, all teams use a common chassis and battery system, but manufacturers can create their own driverains. If Maserati can be successful in Formula E, it could help convince customers that it can also build a viable electric road car.
The transition to electric drive poses both a challenge and opportunity to legacy brands like Maserati. As part of a much larger Stellantis organization where they can share a lot of technology, smaller brands like Maserati have a much better chance of surviving the transition.