Maserati prepares model avalanche

Maserati may be celebrating its 100th year in 2014, but there'll be precious little glancing backwards as it gears up for an unprecedented model onslaught.

In fact, Maserati Australia managing director Glen Sealey is keen to rule a line under a past in which mistakes were made and promise squandered, when inconsistent ownership and product planning meant the brand lost its way as competitors forged ahead.

He labels the recent launch in Australia of an all-new version of the Quattroporte four-door saloon – a car that has been on the market in Europe for more than 12 months prior – as a tonic for the Italian brand with the distinctive Trident badge.

“It's the start of a new era for Maserati, an era that takes everything that's happened in the past, and we head in a new direction,” he says.

Sealey maintains the brand has built some “undeniably fine supercars and magnificent sports saloons” but concedes in many cases their potential was never fully realised.

Which is why he's almost dancing with joy as he rolls out a new-from-the-ground-up Quattroporte to media, while looking ahead to the imminent arrival of the mid-size Ghibli to join existing sales stars, the Gran Turismo and Gran Cabrio.

It doesn't stop there. In 2016 comes the expected arrival of the brand's first SUV called Levante, and at the Geneva motor show the brand pulled the covers from a curvy concept car, labelled Alfieri, that is expected to sit below the existing GranTurismo as a smaller, more affordable sports option.

Where until the past few years the brand had trouble attracting buyers to a limited range, Sealey says the biggest problem in 2014 will be getting enough cars on Australian-bound ships.

“For 2014 we aim to exceed Maserati's best year in Australia which we achieved in 2008, but our performance will be measured more by our ability to secure supply than it will be by our ability to secure demand,” he predicts.


His confidence is based on triple-digit sales growth globally last year, including an increase of more than 300 per cent in China. Here in Australia the company booked a far more modest 8 per cent rise, but did so without the mainstay Quattroporte which stopped arriving last January.

To cope with the expected demand, the brand will open new dealerships in Melbourne, Sydney's North Shore, Adelaide and Auckland in New Zealand, while existing showrooms will be refurbished and sales, service and technical staff numbers will be boosted.

At the heart of the expected growth will be the venerable Quattroporte, which has received what Sealey describes as an “end to end” transformation.

More powerful new engines plus new gearbox, brakes and suspension assemblies are added to a stronger, lighter frame claimed to use significantly less fuel.

The new twin-turbo V8 powering the range-topping GTS raises power by 18 per cent and torque by 24 per cent (on overboost), but emissions are down a claimed 20 per cent.

The V8 engine would want to be something special, being almost solely responsible for a price discrepancy of $79,800 between the GTS ($319,800 plus on-road costs) and the V6-powered model ($240,000). The only other major differences are seat design, wood trim and slightly smaller wheels for the V6 model.

And it is – read Fairfax's drive impressions of the range-topping GTS and entry-level S model.

“It still has that Maserati appeal,” Sealey says. “More performance, less fuel, but still with that throaty, operatic bellow, that snap and crackle.

“The suspension is more refined, the interior has all the technology for which you could wish, and the styling is still unmistakably Maserati.”