Maserati recently held a series of drive days at Hampton Downs race track for its customers and, on the last day, a few selected journalists.
Driven took the opportunity to drive the Maserati range on the track, and also to sit down with Maserati Australia and New Zealand boss Glen Sealey to have a few words with him about the marque’s record local year in 2014.
Last year, Maserati sales were up a colossal 400 per cent in New Zealand and, while that didn’t move the brand up into triple figures (it sold 70 cars in New Zealand in 2014), it still represented a massive increase. Not only an increase in sales, but also clearly an increase in brand awareness and presence in buyers’ minds.
So what did Sealey attribute this leap in growth to?
“Well, there were a couple of factors. Number one, we put in a new dealership in Auckland, which has helped enormously,” Sealey told Driven in the pit lane at Hampton Downs, pausing occasionally as highly-strung V6 and V8 engines screamed and bellowed down the pit straight.
“Number two, we launched Ghibli and, number three, New Zealand has got a terrific economy at the moment.
“It’s commodity-based, but it’s going really well and there’s a lot of confidence in the [new car] marketplace, particularly in that top end where the market is holding up really well.
“So, a couple of factors — a good economy, great product and good distribution. It all came together and culminated in a terrific year for us in New Zealand in 2014.”
For 2015, Sealey expects much of the same for Maserati in New Zealand, with a “consolidation year”, which will see the Ghibli settle down into “its natural place in the market” and the Quattroporte continuing to sell in steady numbers.
That leaves the GranTurismo coupe and GranCabriolet convertible as the oldest members of the Maserati family, yet also ones that are in a unique position. “The GranTurismo GT has been out in the marketplace since 2008,” said Sealey.
Driver comfort is one aspect of the brand that has been enhanced.
“But what’s been interesting is that where your normal model cycle peaks then drops off, we’ve now found ourselves in a situation where the GranTurismo has increased year-on-year from 2010 all the way through to 2014.
“We’d like to see that continue in 2015, so the MC Sportline is an evolution of the GranTurismo.”
The MC Sportline is the name of the new variant in the GranTurismo family, one that Maserati Australia originally wanted to call the “Trofeo” before the name was nixed by head office. This may lead a thinking person to conclude that Maserati has bigger plans for the Trofeo name, rather than letting it appear on a regional variant that is exclusive to the Australasian market.
Of course, Maserati isn’t commenting on that. What we do have, however, is the MC Sportline that Sealey calls “an evolution of the GranTurismo”.
The lighter, speedier Maserati GranTurismo showed what a speedy whippet it is at the Hampton Downs track.
“It takes in a light aluminium body that has hand-cut air vents in the front section of the bonnet.
You get a nice hand-stitched interior with a nice ribbon all the way down the side, that goes up on to the dash,” said Sealey.
“To keep weight off, we’ve used a forged lightweight alloy wheel that is specific to this car.
“Secondly, we’ve employed carbon fibre in the seat base and also the seat back. That does two things: it keeps the weight down in the car, but also gives you a bit more leg room in the rear.
“So, as an evolution, what it does is lifts the look of the car and takes some weight out of the car, which, of course, then adds to the performance of the vehicle.” And, as Sealey no doubt hopes, keeps the sales on their upward trajectory through 2015.
Beyond that, the company is looking forward to the launch of the Levante SUV, which will land in the middle of the incredibly hot luxury/sporty SUV segment. “Levante is going to be the next all-new model that comes through and we’d like to see that here in late 2016.”
“There’s a little bit of a gap between now and then, but assuming the economy continues the way it is, which is terrific, and assuming our distribution remains terrific, as it does, we’ll have another great two years.
“If we can do another 70 cars in NZ in 2015, I’ll be delighted!”