After years on conceptualization and whispers, Maserati (FIATY.PK) seems finally comfortable enough to begin work on its first SUV next year. The bodies for the new Maserati Levante, based heavily on the Kubang concept that debuted in North America in 2012, should see initial production in Northern Italy beginning in 2015, according to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne.
In 2013, Maserati sales more than doubled to 15,400 vehicles and trading profits tripled. By next year, the brand is hoping to move 50,000 units, as Fiat uses the luxury marque to put a solid dent in the German’s grip on the European luxury market. It’s new sedan, the Ghibli, is priced to compete directly with BMW’s 5 Series.
“We are getting [the Mirafiori plant] ready for production (of the Maserati SUV.) The first bodies are expected for 2015,” Marchionne said at the Geneva Auto Show. Reuters noted the Levante was originally supposed to be made in Detroit using Chrysler’s manufacturing channels, but the company decided last year the production of Maserati and Alfa Romeo — also under Fiat Chrysler’s umbrella — would remain in Italy.
Marchionne also discussed the production of the Alfieri concept coupe, which made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. That car, too, could be production ready in the near future, Marchionne said. “The platforms and motors are there,” Marchionne said. “Technically, production could start in 24-28 months.”
The Levante, if it looks like the Kubang concept, would feature Maserati’s signature grille and trident setup, with the sharp aggressive headlights and the similar front body language taken from its GranTurismo coupe. Fiat has not disclosed what will lie under the hood, but we’d be willing to bet it would be similar to the 3.0 liter twin-turbo V6 found in the Ghibli, with a higher performance option that would use the 4.7 liter V8 taken from the GranTurismo.
This layout would put the Levante in-line with Porsche’s new Macan SUV, which features a similar V6 and V8 ladder. The Macan starts at around $49,000, so the Levante can be expected to command at least $50,000 before options.
Marchionne said he is optimistic about the brand’s future, and noted that productivity at its Italian operations had also improved greatly and that the Alfieri sports car provides an “indication of things to come,” Reuters quoted him as saying. ”The Maserati stand (at the auto show), for me, is living proof of the fact that Italians know how to build great cars,” he said at a press conference earlier this week.