By on November 13, 2018

2017 Maserati Levante side view (Image: Maserati)

Maserati, a fairly opaque, Fiat Chrysler-owned brand that exists in the periphery of the mainstream luxury scene, has a new leader in North America.

Announced Monday, Al Gardner, head of dealer operations in the region, will take control of the marque from current Jeep boss Tim Kuniskis, who jettisoned his control of the Italian brand in an executive shuffling last month.

As reported by Automotive News, Gardner reports to Jean-Philippe Leloup, a transplant from Ferrari who now heads up an entity called Maserati Commercial. Freshly minted chief operating officer Harald Wester made the pick in Europe yesterday. Gardner will continue in his dealer boss role.

Before showing up in the Maserati portfolio in 2015, Gardner headed the Chrysler brand, overseeing the launch of the unfortunate, soon-to-be-axed 200 sedan.

Maserati, along with FCA’s other Italian premium marque, Alfa Romeo, is considered a strong contender for a spin-off, though late CEO Sergio Marchionne put those plans on the back burner. Neither brand was sufficiently mature enough to stand on its own two feet, Marchionne said earlier this year.

The brand’s newest model, the Levante, suffered from a botched 2017 launch that hampered sales. A production slowdown followed in February of this year. Shortly before his death, an outspoken Marchionne said the premium midsize SUV’s rollout suffered from a “very poor execution.

“I think we sucked at the launch of the Levante,” he added.

In the coming years, Maserati plans to go after the green sports car market with the electric Alfieri coupe and convertible.

[Image: Maserati]

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16 Comments on “Maserati’s North American Dealer Boss Handed the Reins...”

  • avatar

    Maserati needs to go back to its roots; as a performance luxury coupe or sedan rather than a ‘me too’ brand of generic mediocracy.

    Alfa needs to return to its roots, too; as a performance car first, as basic as possible with only the bare minimum luxury necessary to meet everyday needs. Alfa should headline as a performance coupe, competing with the likes of the Camaro and Mustang while ignoring all the bells and whistles that are so distracting to drivers.

    • 0 avatar

      “ basic as possible with only the bare minimum luxury necessary to meet everyday needs.”

      Nice in theory, but in practice the majority of customers want the bells and whistles.

      • 0 avatar

        … Which would point them to the Maserati brand. The idea is to have separate grades of cars, the way GM used to have 5 separate grades of cars and even Chrysler had three.

        • Fiat: The basic econobox that offers a bit of performance but is intended as an economical runabout for a single or young couple–and empty-nesters.

        • Alfa Romeo: The basic sporty car meant more for cheap fun and marginal at best where practicality is concerned. These folks want a firm ride with good support for playing around but would be quite content with rubber floors and relatively crude interior appointments. The infotainment stack might be the only REAL nod to the gadget lovers.

        • Dodge: An obvious upgrade from Alfa. Bigger, beefier and, regrettably, clumsier as its purpose is more for cruising than for ‘carving.’

        • Maserati: A definite step up from Dodge, featuring the tuning from the Alfa series with classier interiors. These are your “grandfather’s personal luxury car” (read Olds Cutlass of the early ’70s.) The Maserati should be in line with the old Mercury/Oldsmobile/Plymouth grouping with upgraded performance and handling. And no, while their luxury was better than those American brands they were still more known for their drivability, which the American brands didn’t achieve until much, much later.

        • Chrysler: The luxury brand. In all honesty, the 300 should NOT be called the 300; the old Chrysler 300 was an Imperial (IIRC) given a bigger motor and built to be fast, rather than comfortable. I think the Plymouth version was the Fury, which was a pretty decent car in and of itself. No, the Chrysler should have a luxury name, not a retro-speed name. Turn it back into what it was meant to be–the luxury marque of the old Chrysler Corp.

        • Ram: In a word; Trucks. The type is open for two smaller models and it shouldn’t matter if one of those is not a body-on-frame type; there are those who don’t need and don’t want a giant Road Whale or even an Orca in their driveway–they’d be quite happy with a Dolphin as a daily driver/ultra-light utility vehicle.

        • Jeep: If you ask me, they’ve gone overboard with the CUVs but at the same time the Jeeps are almost the only CUVs in the FCA lineup, with limited exceptions. That said, the AWD versions seem to offer better soft-road and foul-weather capability than any equivalently-sized vehicle from the competition. The CUVs do seem to live up to the Jeep reputation for ‘go anywhere’ in factory-stock condition.

        • 0 avatar

          “Alfa Romeo: The basic sporty car meant more for cheap fun and marginal at best where practicality is concerned. These folks want a firm ride with good support for playing around but would be quite content with rubber floors and relatively crude interior appointments. The infotainment stack might be the only REAL nod to the gadget lovers.”

          Vulpine, as much as you and I want this for Alfa my observations tell me that we are in a small minority.

          Your comment about an infotainment stack belies this reality. First an entertainment stack, next heated headlight washers!

          Would anyone buy a new Alfa without air conditioning? Would anyone remove the AC and sell it on eBay as new after they bought the car? Only if they were building a race car.

          In the end the cost savings, and weight savings, that come from deleting the toys is minimal, and the market for such a car is even smaller.

    • 0 avatar

      You seem hell bent on driving auto brands barely treading water into insolvency.

      Truthfully, either Maserati or Alfa shouldn’t exist. Lot of redundant spending. Alfas could be Maseratis and vice versa. If I had to pick I’d give Maserati the axe; lot of old, weak, IMO overpriced offerings. FCA should be leveraging the Giorgio platform as much as possible and phasing out the old stuff… so a midsize Alfa crossover + sedan seem like solid choices.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Indeed. From what I understand, the next Grand Cherokee will adopt the Giulia/Stelvio’s RWD architecture. The current model was co-developed with what are currently the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class and GLS-Class, and shares a platform with those models. No word on the Durango.

        The LX replacements might use the Giulia/Stelvio platform, as well. Chrysler seems committed to RWD, so I wouldn’t bet on that happening.

      • 0 avatar

        Isn’t Maserati based on LX platform? In other words fancier version of Chrysler? Chrysler is an iconic brand. I do not know why they are ignoring it. Don’t they want to make money? Maserati is over priced for what it is.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          No, it isn’t. The Ghibli and Quattroporte are on a Maserati-specific M156/M157 platform.

          Meanwhile, the Giulia and Stelvio are on the Giorgio platform. It’s this platform that the LX cars may use. Then again, there’s also been word that they would continue on the LX architecture, but receive a full redesign (similar to the 2011 changeover), possibly for cost reasons.

          • 0 avatar

            But according to CR it is. Still do not understand why FCA does not want to utilize platform on more models and instead spends money on brand unique ones. Other companies switched to modular platforms.

  • avatar

    As long as Maserati keeps borrowing architecture from the North American brands, I don’t see how they can spin off as a separate company.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      More than likely, Maserati wouldn’t be an independent company without any resources. One of two things would happen:

      a) Maserati would get acquired by another large company. That company could be Asian or European. If that were the case, you’d see a slow phase-out of FCA technology and platforms as the parent automaker infuses Maserati with the cash to develop its own stuff. This is similar to what we saw with Volvo and Jaguar/Land Rover, when they split off of Ford. Both continued to use Ford engines and platforms for quite some time after PAG dissolved. It’s also similar to what we’ll see now that GM has sold Open and Vauxhall to PSA. Naturally, Opel and Holden are still using GM-based products, but you know PSA plans to transition that soon. Alternatively…

      b) Maserati would be spun-off as its own entity, but might continue to use FCA technology under license. FCA spun Ferrari off in this manner, generating plenty of cash. Many of the shares went to existing FCA shareholders, and it’s unclear how much Ferrari is still tied to FCA behind the scenes, in terms of resources. Maseratis still use Ferrari-derived engines, after all. The thing is, Maserati isn’t the profit house that Ferrari was.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    If you compare FCA to VW Group, Maserati and Alfa Romeo make more sense. Alfa Romeo is going for the mainstream Audi market, whereas Maserati is attempting to be the Porsche of the lineup, in that it’s more exclusive and leaning on a pedigree.

    Which is fine, but then cars like the 4C–which is being phased out–don’t make a lot of sense. And Alfa Romeo probably has more relevance in the world of racing and motorsports than does Maserati.

    • 0 avatar

      “And Alfa Romeo probably has more relevance in the world of racing and motorsports than does Maserati.”

      Both have glorious racing histories! However, beyond a few GT4 Gran Turismos and TCR Giuliettas FCA does not have the cash for a racing program for either. (And, no, slapping the Alfa name on a Sauber does not count!)

  • avatar

    Yesterday, I saw a white one, just like the picture. I thought it was a Buick until I read the name on the back.

  • avatar

    Love the portholes. Is this a Century or a Roadmaster?

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