Chrysler-Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne has real big plans for the Italian carmaker’s Maserati unit in the United States. He is targeting Maserati to be included on the shopping lists of rich US consumers who typically prefer luxury brands like Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. Marchionne jumpstarted his plan by buying a commercial spot for Maserati during the Super Bowl XLVIII, allowing him to reach over a million audience in one single ad.
The spot was just the beginning as Marchionne is also planning to expand by two-thirds Maserati's small network of US dealerships and triple its annual global sales within two years. To achieve that goal, Marchionne named Peter Grady as head of Maserati's operations in North and South America in November 2013.
Grady is Chrysler's longtime head of dealer network development. Marchionne also named Saad Chehab, former chief of the Chrysler brand, as the new global marketing chief for Maserati. Still serving as Maserati’s global chief is Harald Wester.
For these three executives, achieving the set targets would be a challenge as Maserati only sold 4,981 vehicles in the US in 2013, compared to Jaguar’s 16,952 and Mercedes’ 334,344. Marchionne sees Maserati's identity as an Italian brand as a key advantage. "That Maserati brand is as Italian as pizza, and it's impossible to take out the Italianness of that brand,” Marchionne told Paul W. Smith of Detroit's WJR radio station.
Maserati, however, is almost invisible in the US, with only 75 dealers carrying the brand and until late last year, with an offering of just two nameplates -- the Quattroporte and the Granturismo. But with the addition of the new Ghibli, featured at the Super Bowl commercial, Grady now expects new customers and larger sales.