By on November 19, 2018

Image: Maserati

Earlier this year your humble scribe was in the Detroit suburbs to drive a whole bunch of Maserati and Alfa Romeo product at an event that was separate from and yet still part of Fiat Chrysler’s annual What’s New media-drive event.

That sounds contradictory, so let me explain. The two Italian luxury brands were showcased separately from the others, with a separate dinner and a separate drive. The drive took place not at Chrysler’s venerable proving grounds in Chelsea, but across the metro area in Pontiac, at a small private racetrack. The focus of that day was almost exclusively on Alfa and Maserati products.

It was clear that FCA was trying to bring the brands further into the corporate fold, while also associating them more closely with each other, since both are supposed to offer luxury and performance.

New FCA chief Mike Manley has now said that efforts to pair the two in the minds of consumers may have been a mistake.

“With hindsight, when we put Maserati and Alfa together, it did two things,” he said on a conference call, according to Automotive News. “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.”

Manley eventually appointed Harald Wester, who previously served as chief technology officer for FCA, back to the top chair at Maserati. Wester led the brand from 2008 to 2016.

Marketing is the least of Maserati’s troubles, though. The brand is down 16 percent in sales year over year through the first 10 months of 2018, with sluggish sales in China and tighter emissions regulations in Europe partly to blame. Earnings fell by 87 percent to 15 million euros in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Wester hired executive Jean-Philippe Leloup away from Ferrari to run a new venture called Maserati Commercial.

A dearth of product adds to the woes. The Levante SUV exists in the only SUV class that isn’t seeing growth, and it’s two years older than its prime competitors. Promised Maseratis such as the Alfieri and a mid-size SUV have yet to materialize, and a promise to electrify the brand (literally, with the addition of battery-electric vehicles) has also yet to come to fruition.

The Levante, Ghibili, and Quattroporte are soldiering on, for now.

Manley did hint at some sort of action planned for the final quarter of this year, and he also said he believes the brand can make its 2022 target of 15 percent profit margin.

[Image: Maserati]

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19 Comments on “FCA Boss Admits A Maser Mistake...”

  • avatar

    Lol, OP, you might want to scroll down a few articles

  • avatar

    Is “Maser” some new slang I don’t know about, a reference to “Mas”erati or a typo?

    Its been too long a day to use words not in the English language in a headline.

  • avatar

    Maserati or Maseratti? But seriously FCA should took care of mainstream brands first. And why all European brands are luxury suddenly? Even Opel.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      Surely Skoda and Dacia aren’t luxury brands yet.

      • 0 avatar

        Skoda is moving upmarket, not quite luxury – VW group want that to be Audi and Lambo, but it’s sitting where VW used to sit, some have compared them to where the likes of Volvo and Saab used to sit.

        Dacia are still budget Renaults, sold from the same dealer, and from what I’m told are often used to entice buyers into the dealer to be upsold similar more expensive Renaults (Sandero – Clio, Duster – Kapture/ KadJar, stupid names)

      • 0 avatar

        Can hardly call them European. Otherwise Lada is also European brand, technically.

    • 0 avatar

      Wouldn’t say Opel is luxury, while they sell some products as Buick but in Europe they’re bread and butter cars. In the UK Vauxhall still has a bit of an image problem, for years their subcompact Corsa was a favourite of ricer boy racers.

      • 0 avatar

        Buick which is considered as a luxury brand competing with Lexus, like Acura e.g. The Cadillac which was Opel Omega, Ford Scorpio as Mercur.

        • 0 avatar

          ILO, I know that GM would like to market Buick as a luxury brand competing with Lexus, like Acura e.g.

          But are they really? Does any Lexus, Infinity, Mercedes, BMW or Audi buyer really ever think to consider a Buick?

          Or is it just wishful thinking on the part of an automaker that died and was nationalized because they couldn’t keep the lights on?

          • 0 avatar

            highdesertcat if Acura is considered as a luxury brand in USA (in Europe it is just a lowly Honda no one buys) then Buick is also luxury brand. In my opinion both Acura and Buick are kind of upscale by American standards. And actually Buick sedans have more street presence than Acura which are extremely boring. Both are not that reliable according to CR which is the sign of “premium brand”. Other than Lexus all luxury brand are unreliable.

          • 0 avatar

            ILO, my sentiments exactly.

            Now that I CAN finally afford a “Luxury” brand, I’d be at a loss to buy anything other than a Lexus product, i.e. RX350 or larger.

            Having had the privilege of having had a company-owned 2016 Sequoia Platinum for our personal use for more than three years, I’d be hard-pressed to long for anything else.

            Interestingly, my wife and I are down to owning only ONE vehicle right now, a 1989 Camry V6. (By choice!)

            Sold off everything else we had because we’re away from home most of each year and have limo service wherever we stay, i.e. Ensenada, BC, Mexico.

            And if we ever NEED a vehicle to travel long distances in, we RENT an Expedition EL from Hertz or Enterprise. And that has worked superbly for us.

    • 0 avatar

      Maserati with one “t”.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    After a day on the bike in tough weather, I get home and go for an errand in my Honda.
    I have heat, a seat, windows and a radio. I always think to myself ‘This is an absolute luxurious experience’
    Just how much luxury do we need in life?

    BTW, luxury and performance are basically at opposite ends of the automotive spectrum and trying to have both in the same package is nothing but a big compromise.

  • avatar

    These are the same bunch of clueless guys who sold a Chrysler 300M under a Lancia badge. Now, maybe in the US is not well known, anyway, Lancia has always been associated with FWD, so this was the second most stupid move in FCA history. Now Lancia is a dead brand, and no one of these top brass will be held accountable.

    If you wonder which is the most stupid move made in the history of FCA (well, FIAT) just google “Alfa Romeo 155”.

    You shouldn’t treat a car company as a kitchen appliance company: there are traditions and engineering choice history that go way deeper than the shape of a grille.

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