Fiat plans Jeep-based Maserati SUV to be built in Detroit
Aug 19, 2011
Chrysler owner Fiat plans to build a high-end Maserati SUV -- a Cayenne fighter -- in Detroit at the plant that churns out the new Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango.
Bloomberg News reports here that a person familiar with the plan says a concept of Maserati's first-ever SUV will be shown next month at the Frankfurt auto show. The Modena, Italy, brand that sells $100K and up luxury GT cars and the gorgeous Quattroporte sedans now is betting it can sell an SUV "Imported from Detroit."
A Maserati has been talked about for years, and the photo above is of a concept for one -- the Kubang GT concept on display at the Detroit auto show in 2003.
The SUV will be built at Chrysler's Jefferson North plant in the Motor City, the person told Bloomberg, and will be based on the redone Jeep Grand Cherokee, a platform that in turn has roots with former Chrysler owner Daimler, and powered by a version of Chrysler's Pentastar V-6.
Bloomberg notes that while project makes business sense, it risks turning off Maserati loyalists, particularly those who recall the ill-fated and tasteless TC from Chrysler and Maserati in the 1980s -- conceived at a time when the Italian maker was in financial trouble. It was the auto equivalent of a classy actress taking a role in a schlocky B-movie because she can't pay the rent. Fiat took over Maserati in 1993.
A clear target of the new SUV would be the Porsche Cayenne -- based on VW's mass-market Touareg, but a global sales and profit success for Porsche at $85,ooo and up, way up. It is by far Porsche's best-selling model in the U.S. and sparks little comment about whether it is a "real" Porsche.
Maserati wouldn't comment to Bloomberg ahead of Frankfurt, but CEO Harald Wester told the news service in March, "The important point is that whatever Maserati we launch will be a product that respects the entire heritage, image, characteristics, and customer expectations of this brand."
A big question will be what's under the hood -- a version of the Hemi V-8, or one or more of Maserati's Ferrari-based engines?
Fiat is trying to boost Maserati from a niche brand to a more broad-based luxury nameplate and the SUV is just one of the new products in the works.