Maserati, the elite Italian auto maker, has been building cars across the pond for almost 100 years. It just doesn’t build very many. In an attempt to expand the brand into new markets and sell more vehicles overall, Maserati plans to assemble its first ever SUV. However, the assembly will take place at Chrysler’s Jefferson North facility in Detroit.
A concept model based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee is likely to be unveiled next month at the Frankfurt Auto Show. The Jefferson North facility has been the epicenter of Grand Cherokee production since it opened its doors in 1991, and since Maserati is part of the Fiat group, Chrysler’s recent merge with Fiat makes building the new SUV in the U.S. a no brainer.
This isn’t the first linkup between Maserati and Chrysler, and the last one didn’t go so well. Building the exotic Maserati alongside its more blue-collar Jeep counterpart could alienate fans of both brands. It’s a reality that lurks close by and many fans believe Maserati’s next step will be critical.
“The crucial thing is going to be how well [Maserati will] differentiate it from its Grand Cherokee roots,” Geoff Lancaster, a Maserati owner said to Bloomberg. “Maserati will have to wave their magic wand over it quite aggressively to make it competitive.”
Porsche’s Cayenne shares a chassis with Volkswagen’s Touareg and its success stateside is something Maserati will look to emulate. According to IHS Automotive analyst Ian Fletcher the demand for bigger upscale SUVs are expected to expand 24 percent climbing over one million vehicles on the road by 2015. Luxury SUVs have become a hot commodity as the demand has doubled since 2000.
“It should be a real Maserati and not just another SUV,” said Fletcher to Bloomberg. “A Maserati SUV goes in the right direction. It just needs to sit within the rest of the range.”
If Chrysler can make the new Maserati SUV a crowd pleaser it would advance the merger it entered with Fiat. Other projects include more than 20 vehicles based on the same compact platform for an Alfa Romeo SUV, a new Jeep Compass, and a fuel-efficient Dodge.
Do you think an SUV is a good move on Maserati’s part? Would you buy one? Tell us about it below in the comment section.