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Why Clumping Maserati With Alfa Romeo Was A Huge Mistake

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Maserati is not a mass-market brand and shouldn’t be treated like one.

Maserati's profits dropped a disturbing 87 percent in the third business quarter of this year, and overall global shipments slumped 19 percent. It doesn't take a business or economics genius to realize these figures aren't good. According to Automotive News, Maserati's parent company, FCA, seems to have figured out what went wrong and, just as important, how it can be fixed. Maserati's troubling current situation began when it was paired with Alfa Romeo, another Italian-based FCA premium brand.

Problem with that is Maserati is not a mass-market brand while Alfa Romeo is exactly that. Instead, Maserati is focused on the ultra-luxury market, in line with the likes of Ferrari, Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Alfa Romeo, by contrast, is a BMW competitor.

"With hindsight, when we put Maserati and Alfa together, it did two things," said FCA CEO Mike Manley. "Firstly, it reduced the focus on Maserati the brand. Secondly, Maserati was treated for a period of time almost as if it were a mass market brand, which it isn't and shouldn't be treated that way."

The first step of Manley's Maserati turnaround plan was re-appointing now former FCA chief technology officer, Harald Wester, as Maserati boss. He previously led the company from 2008 until 2016. According to Manley, Wester "has a good understanding of the luxury market and a deep understanding of Maserati as a brand."

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Wester immediately got to work and hired Ferrari's now-former head of business operations in central and Eastern Europe, Jean-Philippe Leloup. But grouping Maserati with Alfa Romeo wasn't the only problem. For example, there's been a slowdown in the Chinese market and new European emissions standards. A lack of a new product is also plaguing Maserati.

Believe it or not, the Levante SUV is already two years old and though it remains a solid ultra-luxury SUV, fresh competition has since arrived, such as the redesigned Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5. But wait, wasn't there a plan in place to launch additional new models? Yes, but it didn't happen.

FCA's 2014-2018 initially intended for three new models, including a production coupe and convertible version of the Alfieri concept. This didn't happen for unspecified reasons. Instead, Maserati continues to rely on older models like the Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans and the GranTurismo and GranCabrio. The Levante alone cannot support all of Maserati.

Fortunately, Manley seems to have assembled the right team to get Maserati to a position of strength. While we've heard some reports regarding new models, we'll just have to sit back and wait to see what happens.