Big Gains for Maserati As Fiat S.p.A.'s Luxury Push Unfolds

The Italian supercar maker is seeing big growth in U.S. sales.

Apr 6, 2014 at 11:00AM

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The 2014 Maserati Ghibli sedan is a cornerstone of Fiat Chrysler's ambitious global luxury plan. Photo credit: Maserati North America.

Fiat Chrysler (NASDAQOTH:FIATY) has made no secret of its ambitious plans to expand its global luxury-vehicle offerings.

It's planning a slew of new Alfa Romeo models to compete with the likes of BMW (NASDAQOTH:BAMXF) at the lower end of the market. Those will arrive at U.S. dealers in a few years.

But Fiat is already attacking the luxury market with two new Maserati sedans. As Fool contributor John Rosevear reports in this video, Maserati is already seeing big growth in its U.S. sales -- but it still has a long, long way to go.

A transcript of the video follows.

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John Rosevear: Hey, Fools. It's John Rosevear, senior auto analyst for fool.com. We've been talking a lot about Fiat and Chrysler lately. One of the things they're working on now that their merger is complete is getting a global luxury-vehicle lineup out there and competing with the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Like a lot of global automakers, Fiat Chrysler is looking to up its game in the global luxury car space, because luxury car sales have been very strong around the world and luxury vehicles are more profitable than mainstream models.

I often cite this example to show how profitable they are: Audi and Porsche together accounted for 65% of Volkswagen Group's (NASDAQOTH:VLKAY) profits last year, even though they only accounted for 18% of the vehicles that the VW Group sold around the world.

I talked the other day about how Fiat and Chrysler are planning to launch a bunch of new Alfa Romeo models to take on the German luxury brands at the lower end of the market, but they've already boosted their efforts at the higher end with the new Maserati sedans they introduced last year.

And at least on a percentage basis, their sales are booming here in the U.S.

Maserati North America said this past week that sales were up 336.5% in March. That's their 10th month in a row where they've more than doubled sales over the year-ago month. So they're on a growth tear. They now have 83 Maserati dealers in the U.S. and Canada, they say, and they're working to continue to expand that.

Of course, the big seller for Maserati is the Ghibli sedan. This is a midsize luxury sports sedan available in rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, with a twin-turbo V6 that is built by Maserati's corporate cousin Ferrari.

This is the car that was in Maserati's surprising Super Bowl ad. It starts at $66,900, which is a lot cheaper than most people think when they think of Maserati, and it has gotten quite good reviews. 

Of course, a 336.5% year-over-year sales increase has to be put in context.

Maserati didn't release the exact number of cars it sold in the U.S. last month, but we're likely talking hundreds, not thousands.

For all of 2013, Maserati sold a total of 4981 vehicles in the U.S. BMW sold more than 75 times that many vehicles in the U.S. last year. Even if we look just at the BMW 5-Series, which competes with the Ghibli, the 5-Series outsold all of Maserati by more than 10-to-1 last year.

So there are two takeaways here. First, Maserati is gaining some traction here in the U.S. Sales are really jumping for them, given where they started. And second, they still have an awfully long way to go, and Fiat Chrysler still has a lot more work to do here. Thanks for watching.

John Rosevear has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends BMW. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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