By on November 17, 2018

Image: Maserati

In between local radio spots that endlessly hawk Mitsubishis with free winter tires and incentives piled high on the hood, there’s sometimes an ad for, oddly, the Maserati Ghibli — the aging luxury sedan named after a late-60s sex bomb of a performance coupe. It looks like no one’s getting the message.

Sales and profits have tumbled at the Fiat Chrysler-owned marque, and FCA CEO Mike Manley now admits bundling the Italian brand with Alfa Romeo was a mistake. 

After earnings fell 87 percent in the third quarter, with global sales down 19 percent in the same period, Manley says Maserati hasn’t received the nurturing it needs. Instead of treating it like a vulnerable sapling, FCA essentially handled Maserati like it was already a forest. As a result, focus strayed from the brand to the much healthier Alfa.

Profit margins fell to 2.4 percent in the last quarter, down from 13.8 percent a year earlier. Time for triage.

“With hindsight, when we put Maserati and Alfa together, it did two things. 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 said in an earnings call reported by Automotive News.

Since late CEO Sergio Marchionne targeted 2018 sales at 75,000 units in the company’s previous five-year plan, the bar has already been lowered once, to 50,000 vehicles. That goal’s now a pipe dream. Over the first nine months of 2018, global Maserati sales amounted to just 26,400 cars and SUVs. A botched Levante launch in 2016 hasn’t helped matters at all — in a market where high-zoot SUVs are a license to print money, FCA finds its ink cartridge dry. The Levante’s floundering.

Since taking the helm in July, Manley’s already taken steps to turn the brand around. In October, Manley named chief technology officer Harald Wester as Maserati’s new brand boss. Wester then snapped up Jean-Philippe LeLoup, formerly head of Ferrari’s business operations in the all-important central and eastern Europe market. Earlier this month, FCA named Al Gardner, North American head of Maserati dealer operations, to take control of the brand in that region.

With the exception of the Levante, promised products from the previous five-year plan never reached the showroom, further compounding Maserati’s sales woes. They’re still on the horizon — an Alfieri coupe and convertible and a mid-sized SUV, plus electrification galore — but the timeline remains hazy.

Manley told analysts that he isn’t done trying to whip the brand into shape. The flurry of hirings and title changes in the past month “will be followed by some further action we will take in the fourth quarter,” he said. “It will take at least two quarters to sort through some of the channel issues, but I’m expecting Harald and his team to make some significant progress beginning in the second half of 2019.”

[Images: Maserati]

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18 Comments on “Maserati Will Finally Get the Love It Needs: Manley...”

  • avatar

    I’m actually impressed that he’s giving his people some time to realize effective change. Too many executives expect to see such a turnaround in a scant three months, hardly enough time to even get a staff to break old habits, much less develop new ones. Add this to trying to design and implement a change and I agree with Manley completely… It will probably take that 7 months and more to see any REAL improvement!

  • avatar

    Am I the only one to see a BMW 3-series front? They used the same blueish color too.

  • avatar

    My first thought after reading this: FCA should have bundled Maserati with Ferrari–buy a Ferrari for you, a Maserati for when you need to haul the family. My second thought: Maybe Maserati should be sold on its own. This somehow led me to think that maybe Maserati should be sent to the glue factory.

  • avatar

    True. Maserati and Alfa have a similar history of GT cars and sedans, except Alfa has always had lower end offerings as well. If you pair Maserati with Ferrari, Ferrari can handle the supercars, there will be some overlap in grand tourers, and Maserati will have the sedans and SUVs. Maserati can share some of Ferrari’s lower end power trains and some of Alfa’s high end ones.

    I’m sure though, no one would be too broken up if Maserati took a hiatus. Or became an EV brand, since it’s probably the best fit among all of the Italian brands to go full electric.

  • avatar

    These things are simply ungainly looking in their proportions. Like the Porche Panamera, they’re ugly. Yet the clueless with the means buy them.

    • 0 avatar

      Stuck with a non purpose platform from Chrysler, the Ghibli is the best they could do. Looks good, but inside its smallish (especially in the back seat) and too big on the outside. They have earned a reputation as unreliable and subject to frequent recall, One friend has had his called back 5 times in 2 1/2 years. I have seen on line quotes of the cost of service which are ridiculously high. They will be a nightmare to own out of warranty. With stiff competition from more established brands (like Porsche), and Fiat having fewer dealerships, there is only so much that Marketing can do to move the metal. We test drove one about 3 years ago, but sanity prevailed and we dodged the bullet.

  • avatar

    I passed a Levante on the Mass Pike last week that was doing 60.

    It has looks that are nothing special. I’m not sure you can really make a SUV look special. At the speed it was going, it gave me a few extra seconds to check it out. Why buy a Maserati and go under the speed limit?

    I do see the same Ghibli around town now and again. That’s a pretty sharp looking car.

  • avatar

    Maserati makes the only high end modern cars Doug Demuro doesn’t like. Alfa + Maserati really could have been one brand.

  • avatar

    Chrysler needs love.

    Dodge needs love.

    Where is the FCA love?

  • avatar

    If Manley starts making too many good decisions that us car guys LIKE, he’s short-lived for the CEO position. :|

  • avatar
    David Loving

    Chevy Malibu is better looking and more reliable.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I really like the looks of the Levante inside and out, but sales this year are horrendous.

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