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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Maserati to Have Five-Vehicle Lineup by 2014: Two GranTurismos, Two Sedans, and SUV (Thanks, China!)

2009 Maserati GranTurismo S Automatic

Don’t tell us you didn’t see this coming—after all, isn’t everybody doing it? Maserati is under orders from Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne to make nice with affluent Chinese buyers, a cozying up that also will shape the brand’s lineup globally.

Two Four-Door Models, Shared Ferrari Tech

What it will affect most are are the brand’s premium four-door cars—yes, plural. There will be a new Quattroporte, plus a 5-series–sized derivative for the B-level management kiss-ass who can’t possibly buy the same car as his boss. (This is a huge deal in China.) Both cars are being planned and designed by Pininfarina together with the Fiat Auto Centro Stile as we speak. New engines will enter the Maser fold, too, including a 400-hp MultiAir-equipped, turbocharged version of the Pentastar V-6 and a newly available 300-hp V-6 turbo-diesel benefiting from Fiat Powertrain Technology’s latest generation of JTD II high-pressure diesel injection and management. Whether the latter can come play in the U.S. is yet to be decided.

It was clear that the trick, all-wheel-drive-enabling PTU that hangs off the front of the Ferrari FF‘s engine wouldn’t stay exclusive to Ferrari for long. We’ve been told that that both Maserati sedans will offer all-wheel drive versions using the ingenious technology, and the cars also will have ZF’s eight-speed automatic gearbox to help ease fuel-consumption and improve highway cruising manners.

The two cars shouldn’t be porkers, either, since the Fiat family’s close ties with Alcoa should allow it to merge some of Ferrari’s lightweight and rigid aluminum chassis technology into the Maserati models. At the same time, responding to complaints of cargo volume, rear passenger space, and ride quality, the rear suspension on both future four-door Tridents will be designed to allow 20-percent more cargo capacity and a repositioning of the gas tank. (The gas tank is currently placed on end right up against passengers’ lower backs.) The fresh Quattroporte arrives at the end of 2012 and the mini-QP comes one year later.

Maser SUV by 2014

While the Italians occupy themselves with the next Quattroporte lineup, the U.S. boffins at Jeep HQ have been handed the challenge of hammering Maserati SUVs out of Grand Cherokees by 2014 and no later. Maseratis off Detroit’s Jefferson Avenue assembly line? Dogs and cats sleeping together? We shall see. Actually, those 4×4 Maserati soft-roaders seem destined to exit the ex-Bertone facility outside of Turin—Fiat bought Bertone in 2009—since just this week the plant’s 1100 or so union workers approved a restructured labor agreement that could allow a $750 million investment to prep for Maserati SUV production. Production capacity would then be 50,000 units once all is in full swing, which means other Fiat-Chrysler models could join the Maser whomper at the factory.

So, by 2014, look for a five-model lineup at your local Maserati dealer: Quattroporte, mini QP, GranTurismo, GT convertible, and the performance SUV. So many Masers—thanks, China!

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