Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NASDAQOTH: FIATY) made news with several debuts at this past weeks' Geneva International Motor Show. But none were more striking than the Maserati Alfieri.
The Alfieri -- named for one of the founding Maserati brothers -- is a dramatic rethink, at least stylistically, of the idea of a powerful Maserati grand touring car. Maserati says that its design represents the "essence" of its brand, and Fiat's design chief dropped some big hints suggesting that "something very similar" to the Alfieri was likely to go into production in a couple of years.
We've long thought of Maserati as a tiny exotic car brand, but that's changing. The new Quattroporte and Ghibli sedans are clearly intended to reach a much wider audience, and it's increasingly obvious that Maserati figures prominently in FCA's plans to increase its presence in global luxury-vehicle markets.
A car like the Alfieri will never sell in the volumes Maserati expects for a sedan like the Ghibli (or for Maserati's upcoming SUV). But as Fool contributor John Rosevear explains in this video, GTs are very important to Maserati -- and the brand's current entry in that segment, the GranTurismo, is ripe for replacement.
A transcript of the video is below.
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John Rosevear: Hey Fools, it's John Rosevear. The Geneva International Motor Show had its press days this past week, this is a big big show for the European automakers and any company doing business in Europe. The company now known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had a couple of key debuts in Geneva, including a concept car called the Maserati Alfieri.
Alfieri was the first name of one of the three Maserati brothers, Maserati was founded by three brothers, that's why their symbol is a trident, and this new Maserati Alfieri is a high-end GT car, basically a big luxury sports car. It's a concept, meaning that officially speaking it's just for show, but Maserati has dropped some big hints that this car could go into production.
Fiat design chief Lorenzo Ramaciotti put it this way in a statement: "I sincerely can't say that we'll see this car in production in two years time, but I'm certain we'll see something very similar." So clearly there are some plans under way here. And it's interesting, they kind of positioned this car as a reminder, like they're saying hey, our most prominent models may be sedans right now, the new Ghibli and the big Quattroporte, but this is the kind of car that made Maserati famous and we haven't changed.
In fact, they put out a press release, and I'm quoting here: "If the new Quattroporte and Ghibli gave the impression that Maserati was becoming oriented toward sporty, upper class four door saloons, this new concept is striking back and reminding everybody that the brand has a remarkable racing heritage and a unique tradition in exotic GT cars." And then they go on to say, "There is no doubt that the Alfieri concept represents the true essence of the Maserati brand." So there you have it.
So what is this thing?
Well, its underpinnings come from the the current Maserati GranTurismo model, which is their current sports coupe, the Alfieri has a shorter wheelbase, it's 24 centimeters shorter, but it has the same drivetrain, it's the Maserati 4.7 liter V8 making 460 horsepower. Inside and out, it's got styling touches that hint at classic racecars, but it also has a striking look to it that Maserati is clearly saying is their emerging corporate style, look at the very prominent oval grill and the shape of the headlights and hood leading into it, as well as the tail light arrangement, very much Italian exotic but not over-the-top like we see on Ferraris, more accessible.
So are they going to build it? I think they'll build something like it, in fact I think this is a preview of the car that will replace the GranTurismo, which goes all the way back to 2007 and is really getting due for a major overhaul. Maserati's parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has an awful lot going on right now, but one of their priorities is tooling up Maserati and Alfa Romeo to compete as higher-volume luxury-car brands, so I think we'll see something like this just as Lorenzo Ramaciotti said, maybe within a couple of years. Thanks for watching, and Fool on.