By on September 14, 2011

Paul Fussell’s brilliant book Class describes a BMW as a car for an upper-middle class professional, while a Mercedes-Benz is too ostentatious. The true upper-class vehicle is a beige Dodge or Ford, generally filthy and driven at 10 mph under the speed limit.

Fussell’s book was first published in 1983, and I’ll give one of my favorite authors the benefit of the doubt – not even such an astute and visionary social critic could anticipate the massive explosion of (credit fueled) affluence that has swept our society. Today, a Mercedes-Benz can be leased for the same cost as a Honda Accord, a BMW is what you buy for your daughter, and a Dodge isn’t even fit for your maid to drive. Which brings us to the Maserati Kubang.

I’ve seen the logarithmic expansion of affluence on a micro level, as the carpool vehicles of choice got progressively more expensive when I was a child. In 1992, the Chrysler “Magic Wagon” ruled the roost, and as the two year leases expired, the mothers of my neighborhood moved up to the Mercury Villager Nautica, Volvo 850 wagon and Ford Expedition. 1998 was a watershed year, as the Mercedes-Benz ML320 debuted, and the minimum entry point for membership in the imaginary social clique dreamed up by Toronto’s Desperate Jewish Housewife Princesses was a luxury SUV.

Over a decade later, the affluence train has shown no signs of slowing down, and waves of identical white Range Rovers, black Cadillac Escalades, silver Mercedes-Benz SUVs (ML, GL, G-Wagen – but never the GLK) all crowd the narrow, single lane streets of Forest Hill village, as their drivers fetch coffee at Starbucks or take a watered-down Muay Thai class, in a futile attempt to fight genetics and stay aesthetically competitive with their adolescent daughters.

By the time the Maserati Kubang launches in 12-24 months, the leases on all these SUVs, as well as the current top dog, the Porsche Cayenne, will be set to expire. The Maserati Quattroporte is currently en vogue with the Forest Hill Husband set, along with the Porsche Panamera, for the simple reason that the XY crowd gets the image of a sports car, even while their wives have expressly forbidden them from buying a 911 or GranSport Coupe.

I will bet all of my Bar Mitzvah Israel Bonds that the Kubang will be a smash hit among consumers and an enormously profitable vehicle for Chrysler/Fiat. The nouveau riche, perpetually insecure about their status, have already exhausted their options for premium SUVs.

Performance, build quality and dynamic competence are all irrelevant. I know multiple Quattroporte owners, all of whom are dissatisfied in most every aspect. Their rationale for buying one “Everyone has a 7-Series or an S-Class”. You can bet that the Kubang will be bought for similar reasons. This car is going to be everywhere the rich are, from ritzy neighborhoods to rap videos to “The Real Housewives of [insert locale here]”.

Maserati, as a brand, already enjoys a more-than premium position, by nature of its nationality, its shrewd product placements in TV shows like Desperate Housewives, The Sopranos and Entourage, and the relatively limited production of its cars. History has proven that premium SUVs are a profitable formula, and the louder the enthusiast opposition, the better they tend to do.

Meanwhile, Sergio Marchionne and his Chrysler cronies will be swimming in a pile of gold coins, ala Scrooge McDuck, for the exact reasons that enthusiasts will decry online; it’s based on a Jeep Grand Cherokee platform (so it’s going to be mega profitable), it’s ugly (the better to let everyone know you’re rich and they’re not) it destroys the Maserati brand values. Sure, some of them will catch on fire or break down, but that’s ok; the owner can just borrow their daughter’s X3 while it’s in the shop.

Some of us long for a time when cars were pure, marketers less cynical and all that rose-tinted nonsense. There’s no point in arguing with reality, and the fact is that products like these will sell from Beijing to Beverly Hills to Brasilia (and most definitely whatever Russian city starts with a “B”). Better to cheer on such a naked and ruthless attempt to make money than to sit among the destitute peanut gallery of enthusiasts who could never really afford one anyways.

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67 Comments on “In Defense Of: The Maserati Kubang...”


  • avatar

    “…it destroys the Maserati brand values (so, some of them will catch on fire or break down.)”

    Uh, Derek? Breaking down and catching fire ARE the Maserati brand values.

  • avatar
    Vance Torino

    A+ essay on automotive realpolitik.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    “…products like these will sell from Beijing to Beverly Hills to Brasilia (and most definitely whatever Russian city starts with a “B”).”

    “Uh, that would be in “BFE” Bob!”

  • avatar
    John R

    Ugh…this truth makes me wish Ra’s Al Ghul paid attention to my tweets.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    The author couldn’t be more wrong about the macroeconomic trend, now firmly entrenched, which will inevitably affect the microeconomic ones (it already has, actually).

    That “credit-based expansionary affluence” is working in the opposite direction now, friend.

    Any you have just gotten a mere taste of what’s to come.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      Perhaps, but the Kubang will still sell.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      Any you have just gotten a mere taste of what’s to come.

      For the unskilled and uneducated things have been disastrous. That’s not really the case for this market segment.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        College Grads Are Getting Paid Less Now Than in 2000
        http://www.mainstreet.com/article/career/students/gen-y/college-grads-are-getting-paid-less-now-2000

        And like I said, it’s just the beginning.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        College Grads Are Getting Paid Less Now Than in 2000

        All college grads or recent college grads? Recession do happen every once a while – indeed they happen fairly regularly and they impact recent college grads. What’s your point?

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t04.htm

        High School dropouts 13%, college grads 5%. The idea that this recession is impacting all groups equally just isn’t accurate. The impact is most brutal amongst the least skilled and the poorly educated – not the typical new car buyer.

      • 0 avatar
        MrWhopee

        But recent college grads did not normally buy Maseratis anyway…

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Dead Weight,

      I’ll have to respectfully disagree – catch the last week’s worth of Wall Street Journals as it delineates how marketing is now working. Proctor and Gamble, after watching market share drop, is giving up on the middle class. They’re putting all their effort into their low end brands to fight off the private label products, and their higher end brands are being pitched towards the upper class who aren’t bothered by the prices.

      Tiffany’s, who has always carried a line of inexpensive sterling silver tchotkes which sold to middle class tourists who ‘just had to have something from Tiffany’s’ has found the sale of said items has gone thru the floor. Meanwhile, the real Tiffany’s stuff is selling as well as ever.

      I’ll agree, the “credit-based expansionary affluence” is dying, if not dead. However, the “cash-based expansionary affluence” for those who have the cash and can actually afford it is trucking on better than ever. Paris Hilton is still shopping. It’s just that TV cameras don’t follow her around anymore while she shops.

      No, this isn’t a new phenomena. Go back to the Great Depression and look up ‘Brewster-Ford’. The only difference today is that back then the rich felt a little guilty living good while there were breadlines on the street. Today, there’s no sense of guilt. Just entitlement.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        the “credit-based expansionary affluence” is dying, if not dead.

        No, it’s just on hiatus.

        The conditions that created the last bubble are still here. Global GDP expands by about $1 trillion per year, and that money needs a home. During the last decade, a lot of that equity got converted into investments into securitized debt, and the sources for that equity have not disappeared.

        Debt is generally more attractive than equity to conservative investors because it takes priority and is more secure than equity. The securitization markets are already stabilizing, and it’s just a matter of time before that comes back to the jumbo home home mortgage market.

        When it does, enjoy the new bubble. Just try to make some money on it before it pops again, because you’ll want to use the profits to ride out the next blowout, which will be at least as big as was the last one.

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        Perhaps if we switched from Food Stamps and “dignity cards” back to soup and bread lines, people would actually recognize that there is a problem. But I digress…

      • 0 avatar
        2ronnies1cup

        Have you ever seen an episode of ‘Cribs’, or ‘The Real Housewives of (wherever)’

        Did it elicit the same reaction as it did for me? – Rope is cheap, and there seem to be plenty of decorative lamp posts in the areas where these useless parasites choose to live.

        There may be a downturn in the Gucci sunglasses sector of the economy, but hey, we’ll live with it.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Syke,

        You’ve outlined the fundamental problem that guarantees (math doesn’t lie, and the arithmetic is clear) why we’re in the foothills of a depression, heading for deeper territory; that upper 2% (I’ll be generous and grant you as much as top 5%) is not the middle class, and they can’t replace the middle class’s drop in consumption, no matter how conspicuously they consume.

        70% of the U.S. economy is derived from private (i.e. non-government) spending. The overwhelming majority of that activity is derived by the meaty center (less meaty with each passing year) that is the middle class (using very broad parameters, let’s assume this is the range of households that have per capita income of $70,000 to $110,000).

        This section of America is being decimated. They’re suffering real wage (adjusted for inflation, and in many cases even nominal) decreases, and unemployment and underemployment is thinning their numbers (if the same Bureau of Labor & Statistics metric used under Reagan in the 80′s was used today to measure unemployment – U6 – the official rate would be 18.3%, or more than double the current reported levels).

        Let me throw an automotive factoid into the mix here, to get back to the TTAC genre- 64% of Americans can now NOT come up with $1,000 if they needed to, in the event of an automotive breakdown that rendered their vehicle useless:

        64% Of Americans Can’t Pay For $1,000 Emergency: http://money.cnn.com/2011/08/10/pf/emergency_fund/index.htm

        43% of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement (we’re talking about people about to retire here): http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/43-percent-of-americans-have-less-than-10000-dollars-saved-for-retirement

        50% of Americans have less than $25,000 saved for retirement (again, we’re talking about people about to retire here): money.cnn.com/2011/03/15/retirement/retirement…/index.htm

        So, 93% of Americans have saved between nothing and a mere $25,000 for their retirement at this pressing economic period in history.

        Add to this fact that 20% of all dollars circulating in the U.S. economy are direct government transfer payments (Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, SNAP aka Food Stamps, SSI, etc.), and that we’ve gone from having 17 million on food stamps in 2000 to 46 million on food stamps today, and that 1 in 6 Americans literally now depend on government welfare to survive (1 in 5 children live in poverty, and the trend is clear; the middle class is shrinking, and when they fall out of ranks, they head downwards. It’s downward mobility time in America.

        To those who think that the top 1%, 2% or even 5% of income earners in America can sustain our economy, history teaches us that in an economy like ours (fractional reserve banking, credit based, consumer based), this is impossible. In order to expand our economy, loans/credit has to be freely given, and loans/credit have to be aggressively sought out (neither of these two things are occurring given the state of employment, housing values, real estate values, the state of bank toxic balance sheets, etc.).

        In fact, what’s happening now is that we’re experiencing pernicious inflation on the things people need to buy every day to live (fuel, food, energy, medical care, etc.) and deflation on the things they own and which credit is needed to purchase (housing is a prime example). Some have referred to this as bi-flation, when it had gone by the term stagflation at times past.

        There are two areas geographically relatively immune to the downturn; Washington D.C. (the area that’s full of federal employees and the now ginormous government contractor industry) and Manhattan & Connecticut (full of government dependent financial/banking/Wall Street recipients of TARP, TALF & Quantitative Easing largess).

        There are a few other places doing well, relatively speaking, but for the most part, markets (credit, equity and bond markets) are being kept alive by government subsidization), and the economy is actually now contracting in real terms (the BLS understates inflation dramatically, and if one adjusts economic activity for the higher prices being paid for most everything, we’re shrinking, even though a true inflation rate of 8% means that economic activity can be reported to be growing at 1.8% to 2.2%, roughly – so figure a real contraction of around 5.5% to 6%).

        Yes, the wealthy in the top 2% class are spending, but the economy is deteriorating, and when those in there’s no way the economy can expand, let alone avoid contracting, with current economic factors affecting the now shrinking middle class the way they are.

        This is why auto sales will continue to miss expectations (and perpetually lowered estimates, at that). In 2006, as a point of reference, 17.2 million autos and light trucks were sold in the United States. This year, we won’t see the 12.7 million marker breached.

        Finally, some claim that emerging markets (especially the BRIC nations) will pick up the slack, and so far, they’ve at least helped to do so; what will become increasingly evident to all, after the full extent of the next crisis sweeps the globe, is that they, too, were growing in an unsustainable, toxic credit (e.g. bad loans with leverage) type of manner. But that’s a topic for a different day.

        Perhaps the most critical piece of the thesis that we’re headed for much deeper economic woes is that people have lost confidence in their political leaders, regulators and central bankers (why they’d have any confidence in their central banks, politicians or regulators is beyond me, but I digress) at an astounding rate. As confidence in the lubricant of the economy – non-confident people don’t spend, and that leads to less jobs, and that leads to less spending, and so forth – that’s a very ominous signal of what lay ahead, indeed.

        Jobs and confidence are keys to the state of the economy, and lack of both of these things are in crisis territory right now. No amount of spending at Tiffany’s by the top 1% or 2% will do anything to thwart this core reality that has become an economic trend and reality.

        ***Edit – This is for Pch101 or anyone else who doubts that the real rate of unemployment, if measured as it was officially under Reagan (and prior Presidential Administrations), would be 18% or greater:

        http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/07/16/what-is-the-real-unemployment-rate/

        Real U.S. unemployment rate may be 22.1 percent

        http://www.eutimes.net/2011/03/real-us-unemployment-rate-may-be-22-percent-for-february/

        http://www.shadowstats.com

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        if the same Bureau of Labor & Statistics metric used under Reagan in the 80′s was used today to measure unemployment – U6 – the official rate would be 18.3%, or more than double the current reported levels

        That’s complete nonsense. I’d like to see you back that up with a credible link.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        This is for Pch101 or anyone else who doubts that the real rate of unemployment, if measured as it was officially under Reagan (and prior Presidential Administrations), would be 18% or greater:

        http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/07/16/what-is-the-real-unemployment-rate/

        Real U.S. unemployment rate may be 22.1 percent

        http://www.eutimes.net/2011/03/real-us-unemployment-rate-may-be-22-percent-for-february/

        http://www.shadowstats.com

      • 0 avatar
        Morea

        I am not the original poster of the U6 unemployment comment but I was curious to know more since unemployment is such a big issue these days.

        Here is the Bureau of Labor Statistics site that lists the U6 currently as 16.2%

        http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm

        The ‘official’ unemployment number is the U3 at 9.1%

        The BLS only started calculating the U6 in the mid-90s during the Clinton years.

        (Weren’t we talking about Maserati?)

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The ‘official’ unemployment number is the U3 at 9.1%

        Correct. What is today referred to as the U6 rate has never been the “official” unemployment rate. The current version of U6 didn’t exist prior to 1994.

        The current scale has six unemployment rates, U-1 through U-6. Prior to 1994, there were seven unemployment rates, U-1 through U-7. The scale changed and the name of the official rate changed, but the concept of the official rate remained the same.

        Before 1994, the “official” unemployment rate had the same definition as it does now, but it was then called U-5. In 1994, the U-5 rate was renamed U-3 because some of the other measures were eliminated.

        The Truth about Unemployment Rates is here: http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/1995/10/art3full.pdf (Warning: May cause drowsiness. Avoid operating heavy machinery while reading this.)

      • 0 avatar
        Morea

        OK, I read the BLS article (hey, it’s no so bad, besides if you want understand anything you must work for it.)

        The current U3 is the same measure as the U5 under Reagan.

        Under Regan U5 started at 7.5, went to a maximum of 10.8 and dropped to 5.4 when he left office, with an average of 7.8.

        Under Obama the U3 started at 7.7, went to a maximum of 10.0 and is now at 9.1 for an average of 9.3

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The current U3 is the same measure as the U5 under Reagan.

        That is correct. The other poster believed otherwise, but he either had a bad source, completely misunderstood what he read, or else he just made it up.

        As of August 2011 (about 2 1/2 years into the Obama presidency), the “official” unemployment rate was 9.1%. In August 1983 (about 2 1/2 years into the Reagan presidency, the “official” unemployment rate was 9.5%.

        During Reagan, unemployment didn’t fall below 6% until August 1987, more than six years after he was first elected. I suspect that we’re going to be in for a similar ride (but that won’t prevent Maserati from leasing a few SUVs.)

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        The economy is on a government deficit soaked sugar high, and it’s going to be an ugly hangover.

        While one can intelligently debate the precise level of unemployment, no one can intelligently claim that the true level is dramatically understated (the last link below is shadowstats, and John Williams does a fine job of provided alternate measurements to the official data reported by the government on everything from unemployment to inflation):

        http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/07/16/what-is-the-real-unemployment-rate/

        Real U.S. unemployment rate may be as high as 22.1 percent

        http://www.eutimes.net/2011/03/real-us-unemployment-rate-may-be-22-percent-for-february/

        http://www.shadowstats.com

      • 0 avatar
        Morea

        I suspect that we’re going to be in for a similar ride

        Maybe.

        With Reagan, after the peak there is a continuous decline of 2% over the next year.

        With Obama, there was a 0.25% decline in the first year, and now 1 1/2 years after the peak there has been only a 1% decline.

        The fear is that 9% or there abouts is the new normal.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I’ll repeat:

        if the same Bureau of Labor & Statistics metric used under Reagan in the 80′s was used today to measure unemployment – U6 – the official rate would be 18.3%, or more than double the current reported levels

        This statement is absolute nonsense. Utterly and completely false.

        If you would like to argue that the U3 rate isn’t a good measure, that’s fine. But this claim made above that the “official” rate used during the Reagan administration differs from the “official” rate today is utter BS. 100% wrong. No truth to it whatsoever. And no, I won’t take seriously anyone who works so hard to blow the basic facts.

        The fear is that 9% or there abouts is the new normal.

        Back during Reagan, the argument was being made that 7% had become the base unemployment rate, i.e. the new normal. That proved not to be true.

        Predictions are hard, especially about the future. In my opinion, it will take longer to clear out these bubble-driven recessions than before. And the Reagan recession was a unique one, fed by inflationary pressures, while the 2008-9 recession more closely resembled the circumstances of the Great Depression, so the situations aren’t exactly comparable.

        However, I believe that it will take about the same amount of time for the unemployment rate to stabilize, but it won’t see the surge of improvement from 9 to 7% that we saw in the 80s. We’ll see how it goes.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    A worthy contender as a successor to the SNL “bris-mobile” from the 1970′s, OY! ;O)

    I’d be interested to hear how such a vehicle is likely to go over in:
    - The Woods? (Ronnie)
    - Tel Aviv? (Tal)
    - Atlanta or Pompano Beach in 5 years? (Stephen)

    • 0 avatar

      Michael would have a better handle on what’s popular around here with that set. I’m sure he can tell you what cars are popular picking up kids at Hillel Day School. In my days at Hillel big GM station wagons were the thing (Jews around Detroit avoided Ford products until the 1970s). I haven’t spent as much time riding my bike in Huntington Woods this year as I normally do so I can’t say what’s popular right now. My favorite car in the Woods is a Ferrari 430 with FRUGAL license plates. I think that house has a Mercedes Benz SUV with MOMSBNZ plates. They may have a Maserati too.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        SUV’s are a lot more popular with the black community in Atlanta than they are with the Jewish community.

        The Camry is by far the most popular vehicle in the Floridian retirement communities. I used to take walks at my mom’s place and count the number of Camry’s vs. other vehicles. The Camry presences was usually right around 20% of all cars. Then again, the average age for Camry buyers has gone up from 48 to 60 in just four years. So there you go.

        The affluent folks I know in the Jewish community here spend their money on education. With tuition at Johns Hopkins at over 50k a year, SUV’s just aren’t worth the while to own.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      It will be interesting to see how well this thing sells. In many affluent areas I’ve visited lately the swells have traded in their X5s, Escalades, and H2s for Prii, Lexus Hybrids, and Smart4twos for fear of losing their eco-cred.

      There are, however, a few holdout cities where douchiness lives in a vacuum and the SUV is still king. I can see the Maserati becoming a smash hit in areas that are perpetually stuck in the year 2006 – Scottsdale, AZ comes to mind.

      I sincerely hope it does sell well and makes Chrysler/Fiat a pile of money to invest in the rest of their product line.

  • avatar
    340-4

    Being based on the JGC, this Maserati will likely be the most reliable product they’ve ever produced.

    I really just wrote that.

  • avatar
    red stick

    Hadn’t thought of Paul Fussell for awhile. I’ll have to dig up and reread my favorites, Wartime and, of course, The Great War and Modern Memory.

    • 0 avatar

      If kids in High School read “Class and “BAD: Or the Dumbing of America”, they would be immune to 95% of all attempts at selling ads via “lifestyle brands”.

      • 0 avatar
        natebrau

        Thank you so much for your reference to Paul Fussell. Fantastic, fantastic book, “Class in America.” Also, your reference to what the upper class really drives… which I only found out because I read “The Millionaire Next Door.” Also an amazing book.

        I really appreciate seeing references to things like this on an automotive enthusiast site, because for most people, their car is their second or third largest expense in their lives (after housing and maybe, for some, education).

        Keep up the good work!

  • avatar
    thesal

    “…take a watered-down Muay Thai class, in a futile attempt to fight genetics and stay aesthetically competitive with their adolescent daughters.”

    This is a fantastic trend that has truly come into it’s own in the last few years! I never thought I’d be at a bar giving Baruth like looks to a woman 10-20 years older than me, and you know what, I’d want to Kubang her in the back of the Maser too!

    So yes, these SUVs will sell, and for the reason many have already stated..not for what they are, but for what they arent.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Plenty of things are expensive, ugly and unreliable. Just because I can’t afford one anyway doesn’t mean I need one. Or that it should exist.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    My main issue with the Kubang was “why didn’t they do this years ago”, when the global economy was in better shape. But this article addresses that with two points:

    1.) there was nothing to base it off of until Fiat picked up Chrysler and the JGC platform, and
    2.) the rich hadn’t run out of things to drive yet, and weren’t yearning for something ‘different’ until now (although I’ll also point out that Audi is constantly saying in their marketing how they’re the brand for those who want to stand out)

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Now I can’t get the Ricky Martin song out of my head.

    I had been hopeful that the Great Recession would start to change consumer behavior and that even the people who can afford expensive cars would show the self restraint and say “an 8 year old Accord is a perfectly fine vehicle. I can pass on the new luxury SUV and use the money saved to pay off debt or help a charity.”

    I am a ridiculously optimistic individual.

    • 0 avatar
      2ronnies1cup

      Recession hasn’t touched some people.

      Globally, this has been a bumper year for supercars.

      Remember, every time somebody loses some money, somebody gets a bit richer.

      • 0 avatar
        cmoibenlepro

        “Remember, every time somebody loses some money, somebody gets a bit richer.”

        Wrong. Economy isn’t a zero-sum game.
        If everybody stopped working, everybody would get poorer, and also also would be starving since no food would be produced.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Like the Cayenne, this baby will be a veritable money machine for Fiat/Chrysler. The “brandistas” will be all over this like white on rice.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Derek Kreindler’s got this nailed. The market for car’s like this is huge, that’s why famous luxury brand after famous luxury brand is piling in. Jag, Bentley and Lagonda all have them in the pipeline. How long before a Ferrari SUV?

    Also brands like Land Rover don’t see the USA as their key growth markets any more. Land Rover is doing extremely big business in China and Russia where they don’t even have factories yet. The Chinese love these cars, that’s why every car maker wants one. For premium car makers the world’s superpower is increasingly in the East, not in the West.

  • avatar

    I wholeheartedly encourage the sale of Kubang and Cayenne.

    Very nice of all the douchebags in these cars to make themselves so readily identifiable. Get cut off by one of these and, rather than getting riled, you can just put it down to them being another member of the unimaginitive, early-adopting, me-too, fashion-led, self-important subspecies, shrug your shoulders and get on with your life.

    Safe in the knowledge that you’ll probably never meet them.

    (yep, I’m painting with broad strokes again)

  • avatar
    B.C.

    I don’t find luxury SUVs all that objectionable: there aren’t that many of them, and their owners typically have the dough to buy them outright. The prevalence of mass market SUVs affects much more people — they have generally crappy driving dynamics, they’re much more dangerous to have a crash with, they hinder the vision of drivers around them, and people get brainwashed into paying more car than they need. And I didn’t even mention the tree-hugger angle.

  • avatar
    abgwin

    “Class” is a fantastic book. It taught me at an early age the basic truths that allowed me to know that McMansions were evil (you can see them from the street, natch) and that while my family was weird enough to fit in with the upper class, we would never be more than interesting topics of conversation.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      Paul Fussell’s book is an enjoyable period piece, as long as you remember that it’s describes pre-baby boomer America.

      In case the world missed it, the American and British upper class has been replaced by the super proles (athletes, entertainers, designers) and the upper middle class (business people, entrepreneurs, medical practitioners) as the world’s aspirational tribes since the 1970′s. The upper class is still economically and politically powerful, but the only people who even reference them as the taste makers of society are those who subscribe to the outdated and wrong notion that taste classification is strictly hierarchical.

      That was Paul`s mistake, and it shows when he had to create the category of Class X to describe a group that apparently transcends class. Paul didn`t realize at the time that his paradigm of hierachical taste was about to about to be replaced by cellular/tribal taste instead.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    I will bet all of my Bar Mitzvah Israel Bonds that the Kubang will be a smash hit among consumers and an enormously profitable vehicle for Chrysler/Fiat.

    I hope that doesn’t amount to a lot of shekels, because I think that you may lose your bet.

    Although this might depend upon how one defines “smash hit.” I don’t see how a dealership network that small could hope to move a lot of volume, and I doubt that the Lexus crowd is going to make the leap over to the Italian side of the aisle.

    I suspect that this won’t hit high volumes without a lease program to match. But I would agree with you that this is generally a smart move for Maserati. I think that they’ll do well enough that they don’t regret it. If I were them, I’d be doing the same thing, but I have my doubts that they’ll generate enough volume to get rich from it once the lease subsidy has been taken into account.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    Kubang the name i hope I am wong, I doesnt sound too kosher to yours truly. Almost sounds like something should not be repeated in public!
    Perhaps Jaserati sounds more civil though.

    Anyways is nothing but a souped up Cherokee Jeep, something late Bill Harrah did 30 some years ago to his Jerrari, where a V12 was shoe horned into.
    Back in the early 90′s I was told a Jeep Cherokee which had a V10 in it and was used to raced up the Pikes Peak.
    Later my friend bought the chassis less the Vee10. I suppose Merc could have sold that as limited edition too.

  • avatar

    I agree there seems to be a good case for it. I wish there were a Maybach GL already.

    Avenue Road is better than the village now.

  • avatar
    amac

    Large, useless and ostentatious. The rich folk will LOVE it. I can already picture gold and chrome coated variants roaming the streets of Dubai.

  • avatar
    Signal11

    First of Derek’s articles I’ve read. Love the phraseology. “watered-down Muay Thai class, in a futile attempt to fight genetics and stay aesthetically competitive with their adolescent daughters”

  • avatar
    Britspeak

    So many of these SUVs are simply cashing in on brand equity. The attributes that made Porsche (for example) a golden name are simply NOT in evidence in their craptastic, made by the millions, SUV.

    If you believe the cliche that a ‘brand’ is also a ‘promise’, then these products targeted at know-nothing and fickle rich folk simply can’t live up to the expected (promised) standards made by earlier products.

    Look at the depreciation rates for confirmation. A Porsche SUV depreciates about 25% faster than the sportscar equivalent – a Cayman, or Boxster, which themselves are falling faster than the old air-cooled 911 ever did. I know plenty of people absolutely dumbfounded that the expected strong secondhand values are simply not there anymore, and as everyone knows, depreciation is the killer regarding total cost of ownership. Now try and get ‘em to go back to the Porsche fountain a second time – its not happening. This is a hidden cost of the made-for-idiots SUV: it pisses on ALL Porsches, all BMWs, etc. by diminishing the brand and the products.

    These types of strategic gambles are surrounded with huge question marks, and take years or decades to play out. Just think how far Apple could go selling lame home stereo equipment, until eventually the reality of poor product caught up. These companies make all sorts of money short-term on these vehicles, but there is a huge price to pay later.

    • 0 avatar
      Type57SC

      Depends on your definition of brand promise. Porsche used to mean sporting, but now means status and the hope of being seen as someone of means AND discerning taste.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I don’t have an opinion on the Masser SUV, but I like the writing.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Yup the authors likely right on the money.

  • avatar

    I agree completely as with everyone else, but it doesn’t make it any more an easily digestible truth, one that is changing the product lineup and product goals of these and other manufacturer’s once proud flagships. But money talks I suppose. And the whole leasing thing has definitely skewed everything, I’m still not sure how BMW can make money just like Honda does off their products being majoritaly leased.

    But I guess I also exist in the other side of badge vehicle snobbery with an up & coming purchase on an old E30 for a daily driver, so hypocrites unite, eh?

  • avatar
    Snavehtrebor

    I’m not familiar with Forest Hill, but I’m really appreciative that I don’t live there. Not saying I could afford it, but the inhabitants don’t sound like my peeps.

    Nothing is cooler than a millionaire who drives an old F150.

  • avatar
    Charlie84

    I was 7 years old when my dad bought one of the very first BMW E36s in the state of Minnesota –a 1992 model with a proper limited-slip differential. For a good while, everywhere we went, people would stare and give compliments. BMWs at this point were still uncommon and the E36 was a great leap forward from the comparatively retrograde-seeming E30.

    11 years later, my dad would come to regret the purchase of an E46 330i ZHP, as E46 ownership caused him to realize that damn near everyone over the age of 30 (and many under) in our affluent suburb had an E46 (although usually automatic and with AWD). My dad grew up re-building 356 engines and driving slow, stinky diesel Mercedes to school. His German car credentials have been pristine for almost as long as he’s been alive. And suddenly, the sport sedan of his dreams became the Honda Civic of our town (at least for those not piloting Lexus RXs).

    Now it’s 2011, I live in a more, um, “diverse” neighborhood and my 27 year old landlord has an E90 328xi. Credit-fueled affluence, indeed.

    • 0 avatar

      First thought… BiTurbo…D’Oh.

      You have just described the BMW “sales manager car”. Silver, Auto, Premium and AWD. You’d think BMW was a tractor company in the USA with all the AWD. This is the car for the guy who “wants a BMW” but has no idea how to check the tire pressure (isn’t there an app for that ?) or why.

      Given that the cost of production of just about any vehicle (The real TTAC and a fact that has so far escaped even wikileaks) is so low that they don’t need to sell a lot, and can pay for hubris, this will make money for Maserati.

      (Full Disclosure: I’m still traumatized by a 60′s ad showing a Bora, Khamsin, and Merak. I didn’t buy apple at $4 so no Merak for me !)

  • avatar
    Robbie

    Fiat/Chrysler is broke, but they still had something left of value to sell out cheaply: the Maserati name. This is simple economics…

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Car companies are in the business of making money. Plus it’s not like Maserati is known for cranking out purist approved driver’s cars. The GT or w/e it’s called is about as big and heavy as a Panamera. I don’t see the prob w/them cashing in on the SUV craze.

  • avatar
    Blue Maus

    <>

    Maybe it’s not insecurity. Maybe they just have enough Ben Franklins lying around that they can’t think of a better use for them.

  • avatar
    Mitam

    This car will turn out just like the Hummers. Crappy, but everyone will get it to be the first to own it.

    I will getting one so that i can have something different from the rest of my neighbors.

    Needless to say, i will most likely lease it so it will be cheapter, and so that i can get rid of it when everyone starts buying it.

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    Thought about another way, Maserati’s whoring out to the SUV craze is like a cathartic measure to prevent Ferrari from being too tempted to follow Porsche’s lead to brand hell. Glass is half full!


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