Maserati's big gamble

Reading PistonHeader Chad speed's backdated story of his heroic ongoing nine-year restoration of a 1969 Maserati Ghibli made us think: has Maserati raised expectations impossibly high by naming its new 'baby' saloon after this thunderous late 60s supercar?

The new Ghibli will be revealed in the first half of next year with styling expected to resemble a boiled down Quattroporte. In its sights, the BMW 5 Series crowd.

It's part of a very bold plan by the Fiat-owned firm to sell more than 50,000 cars a year by 2015. A tall order given it shifted just 6,159 last year, but one it could just manage with the more accessible Ghibli and also the Levante SUV due in 2014.

Ghibli II powered by a twin turbo V6
Ghibli II powered by a twin turbo V6
There are good reasons we could be praising the Ghibli next year. The name came via the muscular coupe from the 1990s based on the Biturbo that at one point had a two-litre, twin-turbo V6 making 330hp. That sounds too bonkers to be repeated, but the new car might just get a twin-turbo V6 developed by big bro Ferrari, if Italian media reports from earlier this year are to be believed.

Of course that's not going to dent BMW sales on its own, so the word is that a V6 diesel from Italian specialists VM Motori (the same guys that started out with a boat engine in a Jaguar) will also be available.

The potential downside of this car is that it's expected to share a platform with the Chrysler 300C, thanks to the Fiat link-up. If you think Maserati should be more about the muscle than finesse, that might be borderline acceptable, especially when you consider the Dodge Charger comes off that platform. And it won't be as hard to swallow as the 1975 Quattroporte II saloon, which was based on the front-wheel-drive Citroen SM.

Ghibli likely to resemble shrunken Quattroporte
Ghibli likely to resemble shrunken Quattroporte
Hopefully the designers will be slightly bolder on the styling than they were with the new Quattroporte.

As for the original Ghibli, you'll be able buy the new one more cheaply than the sole classic in our classifieds, a 4.9 SS for £84,000. Makes Chad speed's "sub £10K" purchase price of his 4.7 look like sound maths, and not just of the man variety.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (53) Join the discussion on the forum

  • treetops 21 Nov 2012

    NGK210 said:

    A very pretty car, but... Back in the day, while leaving a cinema with my then-GF I bumped into the brother of my ex-GF. He was/is an extremely patronising weapons'-grade cock.

    We talked/walked along the street, then he slowed and superciliously said, "This is 'me'," pointing at a box-fresh Ghibli II, which was parked nose-to-nose next to my car shed.

    We climbed into our cars, he turned the Maser's key and it didn't fire, then he tried again, and again, and again... Mercifully, and unusually, mine fired first-time. I gave him a nonchalant wave as we drove off, leaving him futilely cranking his Ghibli. Smug, moi? Yep! biglaugh

    And to add irony to his injury, my start-first-time shed hero was a Lancia Volumex Coupe jester

    Edited by NGK210 on Friday 16th November 15:36
    Superb! Cap doffed to a great story.

  • rs48635 20 Nov 2012

    Rushmore said:
    As so many people think the X-Type "saved" Jaguar I strongly support a entry-level Maser based on a Chrysler platform with a Diesel engine to "save" Maserati.

    And, yes, it will be " a real Maserati" because "the badge says so".
    If the X-type saved jaguar it only did it by being so awful, if forced them to tear up those ideas and design proper cars again. That cas was a real pig in knickers.

  • davepoth 18 Nov 2012

    Regarding Lancia, it has been plodding along in Europe even after it disappeared from UK shores. The cars were almost universally awful apart from the Ypsilon, which I quite liked because it was a premium small car that wasn't trying to be retro. Lancia and Chrysler were folded together for Europe, we got them as Chrysler here, they got them as Lancia there. It seems that Chrysler won, and personally I think that's the right choice; they had too many overlapping brands otherwise, and in a global marketplace that's a bit silly.

    IIRC the platform that's being used for this Maser is common to the new 300c, the Alfa saloon, and I think probably the new RWD Dodge cars. It's not going to be front drum brakes and a leaf sprung live rear axle...

  • Kolbenkopp 18 Nov 2012

    Thanks for the summary and the link! Very interesting read.

    Edit: got to love the ending statement: "NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED, BUT A POTENTIALLY EXCITING FUTURE"

    I wish them all the best. Would be really sad to see them getting into real trouble. Enough blandness out there already.

    Edited by Kolbenkopp on Sunday 18th November 22:52

  • trashbat 18 Nov 2012

    MonteV said:
    This is Marchionne's doing. He's got a business degree and a mission to save Italian motor manufacturing. My impression is he looks at this from a purely industrial economics standpoint "we need volume to get economy of scale to survive." In addition he's understood the car business is very, very design driven. It's like Apple - style before substance. He plans to pull off what Daimler-Benz failed at. It's going to be interesting to follow, although I find that Maserati really had just found it's niche with a very nice line up in the Quattroporte and Gran Turismo, and that this "experiment" will pull them down market. The new QP doesn't look good, and is too large, which I bet is intentional so that a smaller QP, the Ghibli, slots in below it.
    Maybe. I think it's far more that the market has split in bi-polar fashion into budget and premium, and Maserati is going to be the keystone of their approach to the latter. Ferrari doesn't fit into this spectrum so forget about that, and then yes, maybe it means Maserati expands downwards and Alfa shifts up. It's not an experiment though - it's what Fiat are betting the farm on.

    After the Fiat Q3 presentation, I did a breakdown of what he's up to with, albeit concerned more with Alfa:

    I said:
    He's talking now, I'm sure you can listen again later. Lots of financials but just started to get interesting:

    • Everyone is trying to play in the low end market
    • Other companies have diluted their brand by doing this
    • Running at 45% capacity in European manufacturing
    • Not defending choice today, but Fiat not investing has proven to be wise
    • Survived storm by conserving capital - "worst of the storm is over"
    • Started process of industrialising Maserati over last two years - reestablishing brand
    • Ferrari & AR are the other two able to compete in premium segment
    • Fiat being stuck in A/B segment was major sticking point before Chrysler; attempts to get into C segment were failures
    • Agonised over decision on slide 9: reduce production capacity or expand into premium
    • 80% of volume now sharing three platforms
    • 2,300 dealers in the US; large portion available to AR and Maser
    • "Stop chasing our own tail" refers to circular reduction in capacity; can't sell, so produce less cars, so harder to sell...
    • Describes bi-polar market as permanent
    • Toyed with Lancia for many years but only viable car has been Ypsilon, this should be protected; only way forward is Chrysler now - time has passed on recreating Lancia of old
    • Jeep should address smaller SUV market, quickly
    • NAFTA future should be built off global brands: AR, Maserati, Fiat 500, some Jeep potential
    • Not willing to offer any more detail on slide 11 (model releases) - has hurt in the past, I didn't understand references to why; essentially going to quietly get on with it
    • No capacity outside Europe so lots of new models with be Italian/Euro made
    • 24-36 months to get models up and running so only break even by 2015
    • All architectures in house, majority of powertrain in house; in execution mode, rolling out within 12 months
    • World looks completely different to 2010 plan, not unhappy about missing targets

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