Maserati: Alfieri delayed, hybrids and SUVs coming

TG speaks to Maser’s CEO on its delayed sports cars, more SUVs, and hybrid tech

We spoke to Maserati CEO Reid Bigland at the Geneva motor show. And if you’re hoping for an exciting update on the lovely Alfieri concept that debuted in Geneva three years ago, you’d better look away now. It seems here, as with the rest of the car industry, SUVs are the way forward.

“For sure, that’s where consumer preference continues to go,” says Bigland. “Porsche I think is a great example. As a kid I always thought of 911s as the classic Porsches, and that is now a brand that’s 70 per cent SUVs, and the minority is the cars.

“If Maserati does have more SUVs in the future, they need to perform like passenger cars; be a Maserati first, and have the functionality of an SUV second. I don’t think anything is off the table with regard to future product portfolios at Maserati. The Levante could be 45 per cent of Maserati volume in just one year’s time. But it’s really about building vehicles that consumers want to buy. And right now consumers want to buy SUVs.”

Does this, we ask, come at the expense of things like the Alfieri, and a replacement for the now ten-year-old GranTurismo?

“I think there’s a bit more to it than that. For us to be true to Maserati DNA, having a coupe in the portfolio is important, even though it’s never going to put up the sales volume of an SUV. Sometimes there’s more to it than sales volumes; a halo vehicle like a GranTurismo is very important to the Maserati line up.

“The GranTurismo, like all good things, will eventually come to an end,” Bigland continues. “That was going to be the end of last year, but we’ve extended the product. That’s a vehicle we’re looking to keep in production at least this year, and into the foreseeable future. Eventually we’re going to have to come up with a replacement.”

Are they working on it? “It’s one of the things on the board, and it is orbiting the Maserati Earth, but there is nothing to announce right now. Alfieri is still orbiting the Maserati Earth too. I can’t comment on its readiness for re-entry.”

Odd phrasing, but an unsubtle sign that neither will arrive soon. And Bigland says we should expect a gap between production of the current GranTurismo ending and its replacement beginning, though different crash test results will allow the GranCabrio to stay in production a little longer than the hard-top. It seems the end of those models will also see the last of Maserati’s wonderful naturally aspirated V8 engine, something Bigland laments.

“There’s still a core group of petrolheads like me who really appreciate the sound and performance of an engine like that, one which is getting more and more rare in the marketplace. Hopefully it’s got a few more years left in it because it’ll be a sad day in my life when that ends.”

So the Alfieri and new GranTurismo won’t get a version of it? “I think as far as level of displacement goes, it’s going to be difficult, because of legislation that’s coming in. But the naturally aspirated engine will stay on the market until the last moment it can. Though in our prototype department we have some new technology to give customers more performance and feeling than we have today while complying with the new rules. Don’t underestimate our engineers!”

Among that could be hybrid technology – Bigland describes it as an inevitability, and something he wants to augment performance, like in a LaFerrari – while autonomous driving will also make its way into Maseratis, though only in its more basic lane-keeping forms.

“Autonomy level two or three, absolutely, all of that is going to find its way into Maseratis. But I would say a Maserati is not a vehicle that is purchased to ride in the back seat. We will be well insulated from full autonomy. Selling a Maserati as a transportation pod, where you ride in the back seat with a Maserati badge on the hood? I think you’re going to have to kill me first.”