Maserati faced challenging times in 2018. Its global sales fell by 21% to only 36,500 units in 62 markets around the world. The volume was the lowest since 2015, when the brand sold 29,000 vehicles, and is very far away from the target for 2018. In May 2014, Sergio Marchionne had said that by 2018 Maserati would sell 75,000 cars per year.
The main reason of the drop is related to the lack of interest from the public towards the Levante SUV and the challenges in China. Moreover, the brand has not revealed any other all-new car for three years. Therefore, the attention that was initially grabbed with the introduction of the Quattroporte in 2012, Ghibli in 2013 and Levante in 2016 vanished due to the lack of more products.
No products, no sales
A premium semi-luxury brand like Maserati cannot allow not to launch new cars for such a long period of time. Part of the success of the three German brands and Volvo is their continuous presentations. For example,
Volvo launched eight different all-new models between October 2014 (Paris motor show) and June 2018.
In addition to the lack of launches, Maserati is also dealing with the problem of focusing on slow-selling segments. While its rivals were busy with their SUV offensive, the Italian brand was concentrated on its sedans Ghibli and Quattroporte. I think they are the most beautiful premium sedans in the market right now. The problem is that most of consumers were not and are still not looking for this kind of vehicles.
The development of the Quattroporte and Ghibli took away resources, and the worst, it took away time. The Levante arrived too late. When it was presented in Geneva 2016, the Porsche Cayenne had been in the market for 14 years! That was the last time Maserati revealed an all-new production car. No new cars, no sales.
Double-digit falls for Levante, Ghibli and Quattroporte
Last year three of the four products of Maserati posted double-digit drops. The worrying part is that the negative results include the Levante, a SUV that was only two years old in 2018. On the contrary, the aged Maserati Granturismo/Grancabrio (launched in 2007) posted the lowest decrease, confirming that the brand is still recognized for its sport cars.
The Levante sales counted for 52% of total volume in 2018. The brand sold 18,500 units, down by 20%. In 2017, when Maserati posted record global sales, the Levante had almost doubled its previous year results. Unfortunately the honeymoon did not last for long and soon the Levante started to fall in the rankings. It was soon evident that the Levant was lagging behind its rivals in terms of technology and infotainment, two key features in this segment.
In the case of the Ghibli and Quattroporte, their results are more in line with the usual commercial life cycle. The Quattroporte turned six years in 2018, meaning that it is already facing its decline phase. With only 3,500 units sold in 2018, it is unclear what is going to be its end. A new generation is due to arrive in 2020? or will it be discontinued?
Maserati sold 11,200 units of the Ghibli, down by 22%. The sexy sedan turned five in 2018 and has been dealing with the new generations of the Mercedes CLS and Audi A7.
Is it time to sell Maserati?
After these failed attempts to revive the brand, it is time to ask about the future of the brand within FCA. Without a larger lineup and more competitive products, it is unlikely to gain the traction it is looking for. As it happens to Alfa Romeo, Maserati has more renown than cars. Their real value is not their future but their past.
Even if the brand is working on a D-SUV based on the Levante, which is due to arrive in 2020, it is not clear if they will be able to resist in the coming challenging years. In Europe, where it sells almost one fourth of its global volumes, Maserati faces the tough CO2 regulations and its fines. Chinese demand is cooling and USA is not a driver of growth anymore.
The new technologies and powertrains are the priorities for its rivals, but Maserati still struggles to have a decent product plan. The only Italian luxury sedan brand could find better perspectives under a more powerful group that would inject the resources it needs. At the same time FCA would focus its efforts on finally reviving Alfa Romeo and placing it as its unique premium brand. I’m sure many Chinese manufacturers would be interested.