Maserati is on a mission to attract buyers away from rival European luxury car brands, and this week it launched an other-worldly weapon to bolster its chances of doing so.
VIP clients and select media witnessed the unveiling of Maserati’s latest salvo in its efforts to capture conquests which, in fact, consists of a two-pronged strategy targeting both the top and entry levels of the automotive market.
The most impact is likely to be achieved with the launch of Maserati’s forthcoming new Grecale SUV which Maserati management expects will account for 60 to 70 per cent of all Maserati future sales.
The car was presented to Australia for the first time in a top-secret showcase in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Sporting an outstanding “Galactic Orange” duco, the Mission From Mars-inspired vehicle offered a window into the second part of Maserati’s efforts to broaden its appeal – the world of bespoke specification possibilities available through its Fuoriserie personalisation program.
Maserati’s Italian design artisans used multi-layered metallic paint on the featured Grecale as a Fuoriserie interpretation of mineral dust and metal erosion. Its highly liquid base is supposed to be reminiscent of molten metal atop a futuristic, almost frosted orange-red resin. Textured accents on the front and side of the vehicle represent rock around Mars.
Inside, a new 12.3” screen – the largest yet in a Maserati – stars in the dashboard, and the seats have an astronaut-suit feel about them. A reflective orange tint covering the windows and windscreen represents a space helmet’s visor.
The tech on board the Grecale is more advanced than existing Levantes, with most of the traditional buttons and analogue dials removed from the central console. In their place are head-up display, a digital clock and digital dash designed to talk to a different audience – potentially a lot younger, along with more females with children of all ages because of generous rear leg room.
Many more features will come as standard in the Grecale including adaptive cruise control, lane assist and Level 2 autonomous driving (meaning the car can control both steering and accelerating/decelerating but a human must be in the driver’s seat ready to take the controls).
At this week’s VIP viewing, two other highly customised Maserati models were on display alongside the Grecale – a Levante Fuoriserie (sporting a $40,000 “Urban Green” paint job) and Ghibli Trofeo Fuoriserie – in deference to increased demand in creating one-of-a-kind cars in Australia.
The Fuoriserie program builds on specification choices already available to Maserati owners, such as colours and accoutrements including carbon fibre options and interior treatments, through to wheel size and style.
Maserati Australia’s General Manager, Grant Barling, says the company has seen growing interest in personalisation from customers aware that they face longer-than-normal delays in receiving their cars given Covid-driven production and delivery hold-ups.
“So, they figure they might as well take advantage of the Fuoriserie [customisation] options [which] allow them to express themselves in a more bespoke way,” Barling says.
The only limit would be one’s imagination, he says, though also disqualified would be anything that compromises safety or engineering integrity in the cars.
“The point is, no matter your vice or true desire, we can make a car around that theme,” he says.
The Grecale will take the same V6 Nettuno engine introduced in Maserati’s MC20 exotic streetcar, the first Maserati-built engine the brand has seen in 20 years.
On other matters, Barling says Maserati has no plans to adopt an agency model of selling its cars in Australia, such as that now used at Mercedes-Benz and Honda dealerships.
“Technically, we have a pseudo version of it [already in Australia]”, he says, by virtue of the individual Maserati dealerships in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane, and the two owned by McCarroll’s Automotive Group in Sydney.
“We don’t’ need an agency model … because if the dealer doesn’t have demand for the car, they won’t get it. We won’t build it,” he says.
“We’re not just hitting a number. This is about the brand, protecting it. We’re looking at how to promote the brand for the long term.”
For the Grecale, the company will follow the logic used in selling the new MC20 based on customer-order targets.
“If a customer places an order, we build a car,” he says. “You have to protect the brand at this level, you have to be desirable.
“You also have to protect customers who buy the cars first. We don’t want them, two or three years later, saying, ‘I should have waited’.
“Don’t wait, because the car will go up in price in future.”
The MC20 experience proved that, he says, with the vehicle coming on to the market with a $438,000 base price, but has now moved up to $475,000.
“Those initial 12 months production … the customers got in early, and the next customers came in and saw the price go up which protects resale, which protects our integrity and theirs,” he says.
While Australian pricing for the Grecale won’t be released until later this year, it’s likely to sit between the Levante GT and Levante V6 430hp of which the base models are priced at $145,000 and $200,000 respectively.
On the latter, Barling says “that car at that price will obviously drop in volume”, and he expects that demand to shift to the Grecale.