Opinion: These new Maseratis are arriving far too late
And a long rant of everything wrong with the brand...
Every rock star will experience their peak for a certain amount of time; be it generating millions from popular albums or drawing in entire cities just to watch their performances on stage. Names like Roger Daltry, Iggy Pop and Rod Stewart have each enjoyed a vast storm of success, thundering their way into people's hearts like a flick of a switch.
As the years went on, the old rockers turned to more sedate ways of life; such as doing solo albums, opening restaurants or even playing small parts in films. The Rolling Stones may be releasing a new album on occasions, but in reality, they're a bit dull and don't hold a candle to the hits from the 60s and 70s. But then again, that's what everyone would expect - even the band members!
For Maserati on the other hand, the executives in Gucci suits and Armani sunglasses appear to believe that the Italian brand still holds a heavy weight of greatness to it. For everyone else however, we know that things haven't been all that smooth - and for quite a while!
Screenshot taken from Instagram. You can see I'm not alone with my opinion!
On Instagram recently, Maserati revealed that three performance versions of the Ghibli, Quattroporte and Levante are on the way; the Trofeo name was applied to the Levante last year as an enormously fast, stupidly ludicrous madman. A 580bhp twin turbocharged Ferrari V8 capable of launching the bus to 60 in just 3.7 seconds. This all means the Ghibli and Quattroporte will get similar treatment.
But to be honest: I'm personally not that bothered about them. I used to be a fan of the brand in the past, but they've performed far too many mistakes and damaged their reputation in the run up to this reveal. Allow me to explain.
Back in 2013, the grand plan was to make the Maserati brand more appealing to less-wealthy buyers; that of course, meant making their cars more affordable (hence why the Ghibli originally started from around £49,000). Generally speaking, this strategy of commercialisation has to be done right in order to work and ensure future success.
After a solid seven years of this shift, I think it's safe to say that it hasn't gone to plan. In order to explain why, let's have a wide look at Porsche.
For a considerable amount of time, Porsche has been making more accessible cars to people who want to feel a bit more special than the next person in a BMW or Mercedes-Benz.
The Boxster and Cayman simply nailed the entry-level Porsche formula and the 4WD Macan and Cayenne have worked wonders with introducing more customers to the legendary Stuttgart company. But here's the thing: when you mention Porsche to a petrolhead, chances are, they'll probably still think of a top-end 911 or perhaps one of the special hypercars like the Carrera GT or 918.
The matter of image is vital to Porsche: in order to maintain this, while churning out the 47 millionth diesel Macan to sell to a Waitrose shopper, they also have to maintain their presence in the top end of the automotive spectrum. That's why the specials like the GT2 RS and 918 have been produced - because they realise that products are still needed to keep the imagination of the petrolhead alive. Porsche also achieve this by maintaining their presence in Motorsport such as the LMP1 and GTE series.
When you walk into a Porsche dealer to enquire about a Boxster, you are always extensively greeted by some cooler, more exclusive stock in the showroom. There is always at least one or two limited specials to keep the dreams alive or possibly even a few classics to remind customers of what Porsche represented in the past. Whatever the dealer, there was always something worth seeing just for the sake of it.
With Maserati on the other hand, the dream factor is nowhere near as significant. Walk into any of their dealers and all you're greeted with are rows of mundane saloons and SUVs; hardly anything to inspire the imagination of the customer. Of course, there will always be a Granturismo or two, but what exactly is that suggesting? 'Ah yes, here's our flagship car which is now 13-years-old!'
What Maserati has failed to do during their commercialisation period, is demonstrate that they're still capable of creating dream machines. Because the truth is... there isn't any. Precisely because of this, all that springs to mind when people think of Maserati these days, are boring fleets of not-very-fast school run mobiles; therby a very different image to Porsche.
One of their first mistakes which contributed to this was not replacing the ageing Granturismo sports car; even back in 2008, it wasn't what you would call a class leader. In a short, it made the entire Aston Martin lineup seem futuristic. (Still a rather glorious engine sound though...)
One of the original plans was to discontinue the GT in circa-2016 and replace it with a production version of the more modern Alfieri concept. We're now halfway into 2020 and there's still no sign of the GT ending production. All the car really represents is what Maserati was really capable of... 13 years ago. Even then, it wasn't as highly praised as key competitors such as those from Porsche, Mercedes and Jaguar.
Failing to address the flagship product is an incredibly damaging move in the world of car business; it's a message that if you can't showcase what you're capable of in the top end of the market, then just how much do they care about the products in the mid range? And even within the core lineup of Ghibli, Quattroporte and Levante, there are problems too.
Chief among which is that when Maserati decided they wanted to herd themselves into more accessible marketplaces, they had underestimated just how competitive these segments really are - especially the ones where the Ghibli and Levante fall into.
These executive segments require constant updates on equipment, technology and especially styling. Brands such as BMW and Mercedes never take their eye off the ball; the 5-Series and E-Class have undergone thorough, constant changes in short spaces of time and have each spawned new generations within a 7-year period. Within that same time period, the Ghibli has hardly changed - and it's pretty much the same story with the Levante.
Not only that, but Maseratis of recent have been significantly less capable compared to rivals such as the BMW 535D, yet cost a rather hefty premium over them. I don't know about you, but how on earth could a Maserati be the least-capable in its class? This is supposed to be a supercar brand we're talking about! To me, it sounds like a foul deal and you're only realistically paying for badge tax.
This has been the case for a good 7-years now and the fact that the core lineup has barely changed is a problem. The fact that they were never as coveted as the Germans from the start is a problem. And although it's quite difficult to obtain accurate global figures, they haven't appeared to have been selling as well as they hoped - and that predictably, is a problem.
Put those three factors together and you're left with a very shaky business model - very un-Porsche like.
But what about the future?
As explained early on, there is due to be three high-performance 'Trofeo' versions of the core lineup coming on the 10th August. But rather than getting excited, I'm not actually that bothered.
You see, when the current BMW 5-Series was revealed in 2017, it only took less than a year to cook up a full-fat M5. This naturally kept customers excited and enthusiasts glued to the brand. Maserati on the other hand? They've taken a full seven years to make a high-performance Ghibli! And to be frankly honest, I've since lost interest in the brand and because a lot of other people have too, this supposed Ghibli V8 will barely sell - especially if it's priced at a significant premium over an M5.
It seems to me that the Trofeo lineup are great cars that are arriving far too late. The damage has already been done to the Maserati name and dreary stuff like the Ghibli hybrid has only trickled their worth down even further. I'm hoping that the MC20 supercar thing can generate something of excitement when it arrives, but if there's a brand that desperately needs a complete overhaul, the Italian trident is crying for it pretty loudly.
I had a lot of love for Maserati in the past, but these days, the spice has been watered down to the point where they are simply irrelevant and - dare I say it - boring. The brand demonstrates a metaphor of "oh, I'll get round to it at some point" and throughout all these years, nothing has really changed and my support is now lost.
Thanks for reading:
Are you excited for Maserati's new Trofeo lineup? I think they're arriving too late, but I'm always open to different opinions.
On a final note, I'm aware that Maserati doesn't have as much money to play with as the Germans, but shouldn't they have accepted themselves as a niche brand instead? I suppose that's another topic for debate...
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading the article and I'll see you next time.