Maserati aims for ‘less boring’ self-drive system

Maserati aims for ‘less boring’ self-drive system

Maserati is developing a semi-automated driving system for its new Levante SUV that also will likely find its way into the company’s Ghibli and Quattroporte sedans in the next two years, according to chief executive officer Harald Wester.

It’s a way “to automate the boring part” of driving, Wester said of a new “highway pilot” system that is under development for the Levante and other future Maseratis.

The Levante, which just went into production in Italy in late February as the brand’s first-ever SUV, won’t reach Australasian dealers until early in 2017.

maserati-levante

The premium SUV, which will start at just over US$72,000 (AUD$94,550), is aimed at such luxury competitors as the Porsche Cayenne and the new Jaguar F-Pace. The Levante shares its basic underbody design with the Ghibli and Quattroporte.

The Levante also will offer a complement of advanced driver assistance systems, including adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning.

“Initially in the US, the Levante will offer a choice of twin-turbo V6 engines, but the vehicle also has been designed to accommodate a larger, more powerful V8,” Wester says.

“Future Maseratis may use some form of electrification,” he adds, including a plug-in hybrid powertrain that could share components with the new Chrysler Pacifica.

Wester said replacements for the Gran Turismo and Gran Cabrio are Maserati’s next priorities, ahead of the proposed Alfieri sports car. The next-generation Gran Turismo and Gran Cabrio also will share the same architecture that underpins the Ghibli and Quattroporte, a move that should help trim development costs and time to market.

Maserati’s global sales have flattened the past two years, at around 32,000, compared with an earlier forecast of 50,000 by 2015. Wester said he expects the upcoming Levante SUV to nearly double that in 2016, adding about 30,000 sales a year, including one-third in North America and even more in China.

In regards to the upcoming Levante SUV, Masearti Australia and New Zealand general manager, Glen Sealey, told AutoTalk last year in September: “The SUV market is one that is everyone is scrambling to be in or is already in and we see a strong future in the SUV segment.”

“That said we will be in the exclusive end of that segment, we won’t be in the volume end, and as such we will have a high price position and occupy an exclusive territory within that segment with the Levante,” Sealey adds.

“After the Levante SUV comes out at the end of 2016, we will move back into the sport segment with the Alfieri coming out in 2017, then we will roll out the new Gran Turismo in 2018. We will see a five model line-up with the Quattroporte, Gran Turismo, Levante, Ghibli and Alfieri, and a shorter model life. In the longer term we plan to have a new model upgrade every year ongoing.”

According to Sealey the premium car makers plans for growth globally and in Australia and New Zealand are very ambitious.

“To go from 60,000 to 75,000 global sales in a few years is an explosive growth by any measure, but 75,000 global sales is still very exclusive. We don’t want to be a premium brand nor do we want to be exotic, we want to occupy a space that is exclusive where we make sports saloons, sports cars and Gran Touring car,” he told AutoTalk.

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