Today’s Rare Ride was one of just two finished examples of the ill-fated second generation Maserati Quattroporte. Maserati envisioned a promising future for their large luxury sedan, but the company’s corporate parentage at the time had other (worse) ideas.
And this very car was fit for a king.
With The General offering a costlier-than- an-S-Class Cadillac built in Turin and Hamtramck (the two assembly lines connected via custom-built 747 freighters) as well as Italianate Buicks and Oldsmobiles in the late 1980s, Lee Iacocca decided to leverage Chrysler’s investment in Maserati to create a K-Car-based Italian sports car: the TC by Maserati. Like the Allanté, Troféo, and Reatta, the TC hasn’t held its value so well over the decades, and I find the occasional example during my junkyard travels. Here’s a crashed ’91 in a yard near Denver, Colorado.
In the lead-up to my seat time with Maserati’s latest on the big track at Willow Springs International Raceway and the nondescript streets surrounding it, the automaker held a press briefing via video conference. Here, company PR chief Kas Rigas explained the “duality” of the brand, citing the original Quattroporte as the prime example.
Launched in 1963, it was Maserati’s first road car after a long string of successful, purpose-built race cars, and it featured a motorsport-derived, all-aluminum DOHC V8 ensconced in a Pietro Frua-designed grand-touring sedan wrapper.
Thanks to a particularly slow news week, everyone has had extra time to gawk at the 2021 Maserati MC20 — a vehicle that serves to set right all that is wrong with the Italian nameplate and will be the first new vehicle the company has built in almost five years.
Despite being most famous for its racing vehicles from the 20th century, the brand has been passed around more than a basketball and has been forced to evolve its identity. Under Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Maserati has remained fixated on luxury and had straddled the line between premium mainstream cars and hyper exclusivity. With a base price of around $200,000, it’s pretty clear what side of the line the MC20 is on. But it’s hard to criticize something that’s biggest problem is being a supercar — especially when it’s part of a larger effort to rebuild the brand’s racing pedigree and garner extra attention from the sort of people that are serious about cars and have money to waste on sleek, flame-belching baubles.
One of my longstanding beefs with certain luxury brands that share corporate families with mainstream nameplates is that many of them don’t do enough to differentiate their high-priced metal from what’s on offer further down the ladder.
Count Maserati among that number — at least when it comes to the Levante GTS. While it boasts Italian designer looks on the outside, its connection to “lesser” Fiat Chrysler models is apparent on the inside.
Maserati’s Quattroporte has always been a large, sports-oriented luxury sedan, though the sports part occasionally waned in its influence. Through six total generations to date, Quatroporte serves as the pinnacle of the company’s sedan offerings.
Let’s have a look at where it all started, with this stunning first-gen example from 1967.
Maserati posted an ugly financial report for the second quarter of 2019. Revenue was down 40 percent, resulting in a loss of $132 million before interest and taxes. The good news, according to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, is that the brand will become profitable once new product hits the ground.
The bad news? None of those vehicles are scheduled to arrive until after 2020, meaning Maserati probably won’t see any improvements until sometime afterward. FCA CEO Mike Manley has already said the rest of 2019 will be ugly for the brand, though he remains hopeful that the 10 new or refreshed vehicles the premium nameplate had in the works would help it turn a corner.
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.
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.
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.
Candid as always, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne let off some steam during a first-quarter earnings call this week. The chief executive, due to retire early next year, revealed the launch of the next-generation 2019 Ram 1500 was not the smoothest process in the world, with the company taking on additional costs to get the pickup out the door.
Despite these troubles, the Ram 1500’s launch is nothing compared to the debut of the Maserati Levante SUV in 2017, which hit the market with a whimper. That launch straight up “sucked,” Marchionne said.
There’s going to be a lot less Italian in Reid Bigland’s diet going forward, after Fiat Chrysler Automobiles removed the Alfa Romeo and Maserati portfolios from the high-ranking executive’s oversight. It’s all part of a broader raft of management changes announced today.
Bigland, quite a star in FCA’s upper echelon, will continue in his existing role as head of U.S. sales and president and CEO of FCA Canada. The executive had the two Italian luxury brands dropped in his lap back in May 2016. Earlier in his career, he headed up the Dodge and Ram brands.
Other changes are afoot as FCA attempts to give Alfa and Maserati the full-time guardian the two brands need in order to thrive.
The year is 1986. There’s a new, V8-powered convertible on the horizon from Cadillac — the Standard of the World. This particularly special convertible is slotted above the Eldorado in the product lineup. And it was designed by a famed Italian house.
You’re drooling by now, 1986 person. Vamanos, to Allanté!
Maserati of North America is recalling over 1,000 of its newest luxury sedans to repair fuel lines that pose an engine fire risk. It’s not exactly what you’d want to hear when discussing your fresh, six-figure status symbol, but the automaker appears to be addressing the problem right out of the gate. According to the manufacturer, the vehicles haven’t even been delivered to the customers yet.
The affected vehicles include Maserati’s 2018 Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans. Both models suffer from a potentially weepy fuel line in the engine compartment that could leak gasoline exactly where you don’t want it. As customers have yet to take delivery, the units will have to be repaired prior to being picked up.
Open the wood paneled glove box lid to find familiar fine-grain Italian leather driving gloves. Fingers twist a small, delicate key to ignite 4.7 liters of displacement sitting under the long, gleaming hood. Eyes are met with a proud golden trident, embedded in navy inside the three-spoke wheel.
Select “drive” with the polished wooden gearshift; it’s time for a grand tour.
Our last Rare Ride was a little blue Lancia Scorpion. Suffering from an identity crisis and a recently regulated America, the Scorpion was inherently compromised from the showroom floor. The Scorpion’s tale was a bit depressing, so today we take a look at a different sort of Italian coupe. This one’s a Spanish market import, from a time before the sort of regulation that ruined the Scorpion.
It’s the Maserati Mexico.
Nobody could have predicted the success Porsche was to enjoy after introducing a performance-oriented sport utility vehicle in 2002. When the German manufacturer introduced the Cayenne, everyone scoffed, claiming the very idea of a sporting high-end SUV was patently ridiculous.
It’s now 15 years later and every premium brand is trying to replicate Porsch’s success with its own ultra-lux SUV. Lamborghini is getting the Urus, Bentley has the Bentayga, and even Ferrari — a company that said a sport utility vehicle was out of the question — recently confirmed development plans on its own “FUV.”
But sometimes one just isn’t enough. Maserati already has the Levante but Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says it will need a second if it’s going to hit ambitious profitability targets announced this week.
The heart of a K-Car, the styling of a LeBaron, the build quality of an Italian, and the price of a Corvette. Just one car in the history of the world managed to combine all these virtues together into a gelatinous, custard-like vehicle.
And our Rare Ride today just happens to have a similar color, too. Come have a look at the majestic Chrysler TC, by Maserati (not really).
We’ve featured a Maserati previously in our Rare Rides series — a bespoke Quattroporte shooting brake which drew mixed styling opinions from the informed and gracious peanut gallery of the B&B. Today though, we step back in time to something closer to the traditional two-door, sporty exotica that makes up much of the brand’s history.
Presenting a Maserati Merak, this one decked out in special SS trim.
So, a Chinese automobile manufacturer, Great Wall Motors, would totally love it if Fiat Chrysler Automobiles flung the Jeep brand its way. Who wouldn’t? In the mid-1980s, Jeep was the ruby in AMC’s crown, and its new (and highly profitable) Cherokee line had Chrysler Corporation chairman Lee Iacocca salivating at the thought of where he could take the brand if given the chance.
Three decades later and Jeep is FCA’s biggest asset, not just due to current volume, but future volume in untapped markets. CEO Sergio Marchionne wants people the world over to drop what they’re doing and buy a Jeep. Having global Jeep models that are popular in numerous regions would act as a hedge against trouble in, say, North America, where its Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat brands aren’t exactly setting sales charts on fire.
Too big to spin off? Perhaps, but other brands in the FCA fold aren’t nearly as indispensable. With no corporate sugar daddy waiting in the wings with a checkbook, the automaker is reportedly considering spinning off a couple of brands, a new report claims.
Last week, we showed you four different vehicles, each with strikingly similar taillamps. So began the Taillamp Identification Challenge. (Un)fortunately, Flybrian was around, and came up with the correct answers just 10 minutes after the post went live.
So, the challenge was short lived, and all props go to Flybrian’s keen taillamp eye. It’s almost like he knows cars, or is a car dealer perhaps. Time for the official results.
It’s no secret that hybrids and fully electric vehicles are about as appealing to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne as a crisp, button-up shirt. The FCA boss once famously railed against his company’s sole electric offering — the tiny, money-losing Fiat 500e — for losing $10,000 for every unit sold. Placating California doesn’t come cheap.
Still, Marchionne isn’t alone in distrusting the plug. Subaru and Mazda have shown a similar aversion to electrification, though even those automakers concede it’s a losing battle. In a conference call with investors late last week, Marchionne admitted defeat, outlining a plan to add electric motors to a significant chunk of FCA’s fleet in the coming years. One division stands to go the way of Volvo, with electric motors planned for each new car introduced after 2019.
What prompted the shift in thinking? Diesel, and the public’s growing distrust in compression-ignition engines.
Though it may seem hard to believe, we’re only a month away from celebrating the 50th anniversary of the start of the Wedge Era in automotive designs.
To those of us who still think of the Countach as a sharp enough design to be considered cutting edge, this is a sad reality. Yet the prototype of what would become the 1980s poster child was first shown in a hard-to-conceptualize 1971.
The influence of the angle extended far beyond the Countach in the 1980s. It also started before the scissored doors opened on the stand in Geneva in 1971 and was seen in many more marques than just those wearing the Raging Bull. Even more impressive than its age is the reach of these designs, some of which are still being refined today. So, let’s take a look at some of the interesting and influential doorstop shapes and where they later found a home.
Shortly after publicly dissing Tesla for the umpteenth time and speculating that electric cars aren’t the future, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne now says he wants to make an electric car.
Well, maybe. If he has to. But it’s probably gonna happen. This EV thing could be big, you know.
Human redwood and former Canadian junior hockey star Reid Bigland adds yet another set of responsibilities to his resume thanks to an executive shuffle at FCA.
Bigland replaces Harald Wester as CEO of both Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands effective immediately, though Wester retains his Chief Technology Officer position with the group. Both men will continue to sit on the Group Executive Council, which has increasingly insulated Sergio Marchionne from regional brand operations.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Thursday released a statement strongly denying claims made by a Illinois dealer that the automaker was strong-arming its dealers into reporting bogus sales and illegally paying complicit dealers to continue its long-running sales growth.
This lawsuit is nothing more than the product of two disgruntled dealers who have failed to perform their obligations under the dealer agreements they signed with FCA US. They have consistently failed to perform since at least 2012, and have also used the threats of litigation over the last several months in a wrongful attempt to compel FCA US to reserve special treatment for them, including the allocation of additional open points in the US FCA network.
So, you’re saying it’s going to get ugly?
According to a report by Automotive News, Maserati North America may have falsified nearly half their sales in December 2014 and an undisclosed amount for other months through a demonstration car scheme that rewarded dealers for being complicit in the scheme.
A lawsuit filed by Recovery Racing, owner of multiple Maserati stores in the northeastern U.S., claims a program aimed at falsely boosting sales numbers financially disadvantaged its business because of its reluctance to participate.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles may be showing off a Dodge Barracuda convertible, a next-generation Charger, Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and a Grand Wagoneer — they probably put root beer in the fountains too — according to multiple media reports.
At the dealer meeting in Las Vegas, FCA executives outlined the future for the brands (Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Fiat) that may include up to 30 new or refreshed products within two years.
According to reports, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne also addressed reports that the automaker was seeking a merger with another automaker, and any potential deal would be “to strengthen the competitive position of the companies involved,” he said according to Automotive News.
Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, $2.4 million
It’s impossible to visit Manhattan without noticing wealth and privilege. Though I’m loathe to use the P word as it’s been corrupted by politics, how else can you describe someone driving a S Class Mercedes-Benz with “MD” New York license plates other than as affluent and expecting special treatment from parking enforcement that won’t be extended to some zhlub from Jersey in a Camry?
New York City generates so much wealth that the people there can afford the opportunity and real costs involved with insane traffic, general congenstion and expensive infrastructure. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the New York International Auto Show is where car companies go to show off their goods from the top shelf.
You’ve seen the 2016 Chevrolet Volt at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show; now see what else automotive-related is debuting at the annual tech show in Las Vegas.
Though Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne’s five-year plan announced this week may be ambitious, analysts are raising questions about how the plan will be funded — and how much will be needed — if it is to be successful, let alone live up to Marchionne’s vision.