Analysis: Maserati's bold expansion plans
28 May 2014
Italian sportscar brand Maserati is planning one of the biggest percentage volume growths of recent times by moving itself from a position of having registered just over 300 cars in 2013 to a figure of around 1500 this year.
And it's all being driven by the firm's first diesel engine, fitted to the first car really suitable for the fleet market - a sub-£50,000 159g/km executive saloon called the Ghibli, which Maserati hopes will tempt the likes of top-end BMW 5-series customers as well as those attracted to the Mercedes CLS and Jaguar XF.
The corporate sector is vital to these aims, with 40-50% of Ghibli registrations predicted to come through the contract hire and leasing industry during 2014, and a total of 75 orders have already been placed in the first few weeks since the car went on sale in mid-January.
Maserati appointed its first national corporate sales manager last August, with Graeme Jenkins joining the company after 15 years in Toyota and Lexus's fleet operation.
"When I was appointed, it was very much a blank canvas because Maserati had never needed to go into this arena before," Jenkins tells BusinessCar. "To make sure we hit the volumes we need to, corporate becomes a very important part of it."
Maserati now has terms set out and agreed with seven of the top 10 leasing companies, with a steady dialogue key to establishing the brand's credibility in the fleet sector.
"I've been using some of my experience with Toyota and Lexus and making sure we have a consistent message to leasing companies, and we're developing a programme and culture that says this is the support whatever the contract hire and leasing company is - and it's a relatively small support strategy," says Jenkins. "We're doing it as the textbook would say because the desirability of the brand and the product is very high."
He continues: "There were no relationships before, and why would there be? There was quite a bit of eyebrow raising when I said I was moving from Toyota and Lexus, and there has been quite a bit of interest from leasing companies - surprisingly so as let's face it, we're a tiny bit of the market compared to other luxury brands."
The service, maintenance and repair figures are also something that Maserati has been working hard on as it seeks to establish its reputation.
As the firm has no prior history in the sector to influence the figures, it could suffer from providers who tend to take a conservative view on the potential repair costs of a new model.
That has led Maserati to launch Premium Service and Premium Service Plus packages, which the firm claims would cover all costs bar tyres. For £1600, the base package covers the servicing, components and labour across three years and 60,000 miles, while for £2504 the Plus alternative also includes a set of front and rear brake pads and discs.
"Contract hire and leasing companies have shown a lot of interest," says Jenkins, who also described the three-year unlimited mileage warranty as a "big statement of confidence".
Control of the initially impressive residual values, that put the Ghibli ahead of most rivals, is also vital to Maserati, and it is working with leasing firms to retain three-year old cars within its dealer network.
"The last thing we want to see in three years' time is Ghiblis at auction, God forbid, so part of the agreement is that the first option is to get the car into the dealer market," reveals Jenkins. "We need to make sure we have a very proactive approach to repatriating cars into the dealer network."
Jenkins is also keen to ensure Maserati retains its exclusivity as it increases volumes.
"The Maserati experience is a full retail handover at a showroom, to make sure we meet the high expectations customers have from us," he says.
"There will be no third-party transportation of vehicles, nobody will be just handing over the keys and walking away. We believe customers are coming to us for many things, not least of which is customer service."
Expanding the dealer network is therefore another priority, and six new sites have been added in the past 12 months, all solus Maserati operations rather than the joint businesses with sister brand Ferrari that previously populated the UK.
The goal is for there to be a Maserati showroom within 50 minutes of any customer, and Jenkins says the dealers will be able to help transport drivers to their new car.
"We want to make it as easy as possible to access the brand and whatever we can do to help them at the first point I think we should be doing," he says. "The corporate programme is as such that they will have the facility to do that.
"We'll give them the Maserati experience, so in three years' time we can get them into another Maserati," continues Jenkins.
The target is for 1000 Ghibli registrations in 2014, rising to 1200 next year and 1500 in 2016, taking the monster share of volume this year, before being assisted by the launch of a new SUV called Levante in early 2016 that will help Maserati's overall registrations grow to 1500 this year, 2000 in 2015 and 3000 the year after that.