Posted on Sep 11, 2020 at 11:58 a.m.Updated Sep 11, 2020, 4:56 PM
Impossible to miss the MC20, the last baby of Maserati, Thursday in Modena. Piazza Roma or Piazza Grande, in the historic center of the small Italian city that houses the headquarters of the brand, the racing car roared its powerful engine in front of the smartphones of the curious. The night before, several hundred journalists (duly distanced and masked) were entitled to the "reveal" of this "supercar", as sports cars are nicknamed at more than 200,000 euros, during a major show at the American, giant curved screen and supporting decibels. John Elkann and Mike Manley, respectively President and CEO of the Fiat Chrysler Group (FCA), owner of the century-old brand since 1993, made the trip for the event.
It must be said that this launch is emblematic in more than one way. “We are laying the foundation stone for Maserati's future. It's the start of a new era ”, Davide Grasso, the boss of the brand, launched with emphasis on the giant stage set up in the center of the Modena auto circuit. With a power of 630 hp, the MC20 (for Maserati Corse 2020) should allow the Trident brand to make a big comeback in competition, more than sixty years after the Argentinian Fangio's victory at the F1 world championship in 1957. behind the wheel of a Tipo 250F.
Boost the image
Marketed from 2021 at a (minimum) price of 220,000 euros, the new car is not however really intended to inflate the volumes of Maserati, which expects barely 7 units produced per day (and about 1,000 per year). It is rather a question of "boosting" its image upstream of a series of upcoming launches intended to rebuild a future for the Trident, which has become in recent years a chasm for the FCA group.
This is also a crucial issue in view of the merger with PSA: Maserati will be called upon to become the brand that will bring the new group a position in the lucrative and growing luxury automobile segment. "It will be the crown jewel of the new ensemble, Stellantis," insisted Mike Manley in Modena.
The British leader of FCA has set ambitious goals: to sell 75,000 cars per year by 2025, and to restore the margin to 15%. "Given our very strong vision, I think we can do it", did he declare. In the meantime, Maserati hopes to return to profit from next year.
Because the Italian manufacturer fell into the red last year, after having seen its sales plummet since 2017. From 51,000 that year, deliveries fell to 19,000 in 2019. With the health crisis, no better is expected for 2020: 7,000 Maseratis have been sold over the first six months. "We should end the year at 19,000", believes Bernard Loire, the brand's sales director. The trident firm, which had generated 560 million euros in operating profit in 2017, lost 200 million euros last year (for a turnover of 1.6 billion), and another 174 million in the first semester of this year.
The fall of the Chinese market, the first for the group in 2017, with 30% of its sales, is not the only cause. "Maserati's main problem is chronic product underinvestment and poor planning," estimates analyst Philippe Houchois, at Jefferies. The leaders of the Trident agree. "Maserati suffered from the 'launch only' syndrome, paying a lot of attention to the launches of new models, without then investing in their long-term support", comments Bernard Loire.
The brand also took the SUV wave very late, having only launched its luxury urban 4×4, the Levante, in 2016, to complete its range (which also includes the Ghibli sedan, the Quattroporte limousine, and the GT GranTurismo and GranCabrio). It has not launched any new model since 2016, and has also procrastinated for a long time before taking the turn of the electric: it presented this summer its first electrified model, a Ghibli in “mild hybrid” version (consisting simply of boosting the heat engine thanks to a small electric motor of 48 volts).
As a result, its heavily CO2-emitting vehicles are weighed down by exorbitant taxes in many countries. "They can represent up to 100,000 euros on the Levante in the Netherlands, for example", explains Bernard Loire. In France, all models are subject to the maximum penalty of 20,000 euros. With emissions of 184 g / km, the Ghibli hybrid which will arrive in France in October will drop it to 5,400 euros.
About eighteen months ago, Mike Manley decided to tackle the problem, pledging to devote colossal investments, of 2.5 billion euros, to the revival of the Trident. He recruited for this a "pro" marketing to lead the brand: arrived in July 2019, Davide Grasso is a former executive of Nike and Converse.
13 launches by 2025
The 12 launches that will follow after the MC20 are the result of this reconstruction strategy. "Even in the bottom of the wave, even during the coronavirus crisis, investments have never been called into question", says Bernard Loire. New products, but also technological innovations. All the new Trident models will now be available in a 100% electric version: GranTurismo and GranCabrio first, then the MC20. "The customer must have the choice", insisted Mike Manley.
Above all, the Italian manufacturer is counting on the new SUV that it is due to launch next year. Also with a wind name, the Grecale will be smaller than the Levante, and will be produced in FCA's Cassino plant on a platform from Alfa Romeo, another brand of the group. Given the current craze for urban 4x4s, the success of this new Grecale will be essential to achieve the objectives and face stiff competition from Porsches, Jaguars, and even its neighbor from Modena, the big brother Ferrari.