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Maserati: a brief history, the present, and the future

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Maserati: a brief history, the present, and the future

The Italian luxury-performance automaker was established in 1914 by five brothers - Alfieri, Ettore, Bindo, Carlo, and Ernesto Maserati. The company has a strong racing background, and is the only Italian automaker to have back-to-back victories at the Indianapolis 500 (with the 8CTF in 1939 and 1940). Carlo and Alfieri had actually begun racing around the turn of the century.

Their emblem has remained unchanged - a trident designed by Mario Maserati, representing strength, and based on the "Fountain of Neptune" in Bologna, seen as a symbol of the city.

The Maserati brothers sold their shares to the Adolfo Orsi family in 1937, and the company's headquarters moved from Bologna to Modena three years later; the brothers continued to work in the company. During the war, the company turned to production of military hardware; shoftly after the war, in 1947, the Maserati brothers left to create OSCA.

After the war, Maserati continued to be involved - and successful - in racing, attracting among others Alberto Massimino, who had worked at Fiat, Alfa Romeo, and Ferrari. Key cars in this time included the 4CLT, A6, 8CLT, and the A6GCS. The company stopped "factory racing" due to the Mille Miglia tragedy, but continued to make cars for private raceres; they started focusing more on cars for street use, including the 3500, 5000, Sebring, and Mistral. Its cars tended to be mid-engined two-doors.

The first Quattroporte ("four doors") was launched as a 1963 model, powered by a 256 hp V8 with a 295 hp option. The company was sold to Citroën in 1968, with Adolfo Orsi remaining president, but with a good deal of sharing between the two companies. Citroën used Maserati engines in the SM, and Maserati used Citroën technology in their street cars. In these period, the company launched the Bora, Induy, and, though it was never produced in serious numbers (just seven were made), the Quattroporte II.

Citroën went bankrupt in 1974 with the oil crisis, and the Italian government kept Maserati alive for a brief time. Then, in 1975, former racing driver Alejandro de Tomaso took over the company (using the Benelli motorcycle company as a proxy). Maserati company then launched the Kyalami, Quattroporte III, Biturbo, Ghibli II, and the Spyder. In the 1980s, Maserati started to switch to rear wheel drive coupes from the mid-engined design; they set up a twin-turbo engine used in models, including the Karif and Spyder.

Mr. de Tomaso was friends with Lee Iacocca, which may have helped to create the companies' collaboration on the Chrysler TC by Maserati; the car was based on a Chrysler platform and architecture, but was tuned by Maserati, with the goal of making money for Maserati and adding glamour to a following Chrysler car, the LeBaron coupe. However, because of a two-year delay in creating the TC, it was launched after the Chrysler LeBaron instead of before it. Thus, the two-door, two-passenger, luxury grand touring convertible seemed like a Maserati-badged K-car, instead of making the LeBaron seem like a "Chrysler based on a Maserati." (During this time, Chrysler owned a chunk of Maserati, as well.)

Fiat S.p.A.'s gained ownership of Maserati in 1993, and released the 3200GT, a two-door coupe with a 3.2-liter twin-turbo V8, in 1998; it could do 0-62 in 5.1 seconds. Before the 3200GT was out of the door, Ferrari had purchased half of Maserati (in 1997); in 1999, Ferrari took complete control and released the Enzo-based MC12. Ferrari saw Maserati as its luxury division, and built a new factory to raise quality and production.

Ferrari brought Maserati back to the United States in 2002, before selling the company to Alfa Romeo in 2005. Passing shares of Maserati around, in the end, only enriched lawyers and investment bankers; Fiat later acquired 90% of Ferrari and all of Alfa Romeo, ending up with Maserati again. The brand continued to sell in small numbers until new new Quattroporte arrived in 2013.

The Post-Fiat Maserati Cars

Insiders have told Allpar that the Maserati Quattroporte was very loosely based on the Chrysler 300C, due to a deal reached with DaimlerChrysler; ironically, Fiat would end up owning Chrysler by the time the car came out. The Quattroporte, which is considerably longer than the 300C, differs from the much cheaper American car in many ways, including not just the obvious interior and exterior changes but a completely retuned front suspension, different engines, and extensive use of lightweight materials. The car has been a sales success, easily surpassing the older Quattroportes and contributing to a resurgence of the now-profitable brand. Observers may notice the Chrysler headlight and window switches and (admittedly relocated) starter button. The transmission is the same - the ZF eight-speed automatic, also used by Rolls-Royce.

Quattroporte buyers have a choice of a 3-liter V6 (loosely based on the Chrysler Pentastar, and made by Chrysler and Ferrari; and a 523 horsepower 3.8-liter Ferrari V8. The V6 is sold with all wheel drive, the V8 with rear wheel drive.

The V6 twin-turbo engine has 404 (US) or 410 (Europe) hp at 5,500 rpm and 406 lb.-ft. torque between 1,500-5,000 rpm; normally, torque is smoothed at 369 lb.-ft. in the lower rpm range. The V8 uses a pair of low-inertia, twin-scroll parallel turbos, each having its own air-to-air intercooler; torque can be overboosted to 524 lb.-ft. from 2,250-3,500 rpm. The V6, when hooked up to rear-wheel drive, is lighter than the V8 car, at 4,101 pounds (add 154 pounds for all-wheel drive). The rear-wheel-drive version accelerates to 62 mph in 5.1 seconds, all-wheel drive in 4.9 seconds; the rear-wheel drive car's 177-mph top speed matches that of the Sport GT S. There is also a diesel, the base model, giving 275 horsepower (250 horsepower in Italy).

The Maserati has a five-inch-longer wheelbase than the 300C. Compared with the 2012 Quattroporte, the 2013 was ten inches longer, three inches wider, and 220 lb lighter (the latter, because 60% of the upper body and much of the suspension is aluminum).

The Maserati Ghibli, based on the same basic platform and architecture, is also built at the former Bertone plant in Grugliasco (Turin), leaving the traditional Maserati plant in Modena, Italy, to build the old GranTurismo and GranCabrio.

The Ghibli has the first diesel in Maserati's history, giving 275 horsepower (with a 250 horsepower option in Italy, to avoid a power tax) and hitting 62 mph from a stand-still in 6.3 seconds with a 155-mph top speed; it uses a variable-geometry turbo (pioneered in the 1980s/90s by Chrysler). A common-rail injection system reduces noise, improves cold starts, and gives higher torque at low rpm.

Buyers can also opt for a gasoline V6, cast in Kokomo (Indiana), machined in Trenton (Michigan), and assembled at the Maranello Ferrari plant; it pumps out 330 horsepower (345 in the U.S.) at 5000 rpm and 332 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm. Hitting the Sport button gives 369 lb-ft. Zero to 62 mph is 5.6 seconds, and top speed is 163.4 mph. The car uses the same eight-speed ZF automatic transmission as 300C and many German luxury cars, with software which recognizes driving style and road conditions and adapts the gear-changing mode accordingly.

The Ghibli S has the same 3-liter twin-turbo V-6, tuned to generate 404 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 406 lb-ft of torque at just 1,750 rpm. It has a top speed of 177 mph and a zero-to-62-mph time of five seconds. The AWD Ghibli Q4 has the same engine, but runs 0-62 in 4.8 seconds, with almost the same top speed. (In the US, the AWD is standard on Ghibli S.)

Karl3 pointed out that the first plans for a "Kubang" SUV were revealed in 2003, after the success of the Porsche Cayenne.

The LX-based Levante (translated as "East") will be built starting in 2015, at the same Grugliasco plant as Ghibli and Quattroporte, and sharing engines with Quattroporte; Karl3 wrote that plans to make an Alfa Romeo large sedan there have been scrapped. Originally, Maserati showed an SUV dubbed "Kubang," which was to be built in Detroit, on a Grand Cherokee platform; the current plan is to build it in Italy, using the Quattroporte or Ghibli platform, with conflicting reports on the engines (but undoubtedly drawing from the same engines as Ghibli or Quattroporte).

Maserati's CEO Harald Wester plans on dramatically increasing production: "Maserati stands today at the edge of an unparalleled strategic and industrial growth that will see our presence in the world rise to 50,000 units a year by 2015."
In 2013, U.S. Maserati sales rose 74.1%; in the first quarter of 2014, sales have rocketed up 331.3%, outpacing every other ultra-premium brand. 2013 worldwide sales climbed 144.9% and trading profit tripled to $236 million, justifying the $660 million investment in the new factory.

The diesel versions are currently not available in North America.

Karl3 wrote that we should expect to see a new Maserati Alfieri, going into production in 2016; shorter and lighter than GranTurismo, and based on the Ferrari California, it is positioned against the Porsche 911.

The car appears to be V6 powered, and will appear in calendar-year 2016, with a convertible arriving a year later.

He also wrote:

  • A major GranTurismo upgrade is due in 2018, while the GranSport will bow out when the Alfieri shows up. The current GranTurismo and GranCoupe still use the old 4.2 and 4.7 liter V8 engines. The next GranTurismo will be rear wheel drive and gasoline-V8 only; there will be no more convertible.
  • The higher-end V6 turbo will rise to 450 hp, while the Quattroprote V8 turbo will rise from 510 to 560 hp. The long-term plan for Maserati shows a Ghibli V8 option down the road, along with a new 340 horsepower diesel for Quattroporte and Levante AWD, with all Levantes being AWD.
  • (2015) Announcements are becoming more and more likely; Levante has been confirmed for this year several times. It will be produced at the Mirafiori plant, Fiat's main plant in Torino, with a lot of unused capacity.
  • (2015) GranTurismo production at Modena will cease soon.

Predictions from 2012: How did Karl do?

In 2012, Karl3 predicted:

  • Maserati Quattroporte 6 (M156): introduction at Detroit (January 2013)
    • Chassis derived from Chrysler 300
    • Turbocharged V6 (404/410 hp) and turbocharged V8 (530 hp), both "in-house" (not Chrysler sourced)
    • AWD (only with V6)
    • Built in Ferrari's Maranello complex

  • Maserati Ghibli (M157)
    • Introduction about one year after M156, after quality issues in production have been sorted [yes]
    • Same platform as Quattroporte, built on same line (shorter wheelbase), shared engines [yes]
    • Also VM V6 Diesel, a more powerful variation of the engine used in the Grand Cherokee
    • Alfa Romeo 169 version (in Fiat's product plan) will be based on the Maserati Ghibli, made at the same plant, with different sheet metal. [Alfa will not be made in the same plant but is still likely]

  • <!-- Allpar 336x280 top of page or in text -->
    GranSport [Karl3 wrote: "This may have been replaced by the Alfieri.]
    • Reviving GranSport name in (2015 ?)
    • First mid-engine Maserati since Merak (1982); to have V6 engine
    • Base 4C frame, but different bodystyle, maybe longer wheelbase
    • Built alongside 4C at Maserati Home Plant at Modena
  • GT/GC Gran Turismo/GranCabrio: No essential changes yet
  • Levante: Starting in 2014, to be built or finished in Italy, using many American parts (see upcoming trucks and Jeeps ), with powertrain options similar to Quattroporte.

Chrysler 1904-2018

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