Gardner says the Maserati brand needed to return to its roots. It was founded as a race car company in 1914 and remained race focused until 1947 when it introduced the first A6 grand tourer which was a mashup of performance and luxury with Italian sophistication and elegance. Today a hallmark is the twin-turbo V-6 and V-8 engines built by Ferrari.
In his eyes, the problem is not with product, but product awareness. The Levante SUV, launched three years ago, still has only 22 percent awareness and competes against performance SUVs with three times that awareness, Gardner tells MotorTrend. Maserati needs to get on people’s radar, and Gardner is convinced a test drive will make the driver fall in love with the Levante, especially the new 550-hp GTS and 590-hp Trofeo with the Ferrari V-8.
Maserati was just one factor in first-quarter earnings that saw FCA profit fall 29 percent. There were also losses in China and Europe and fewer deliveries in North America. Production in the U.S. was down about 90,000 units, half of it from phasing out the old Wrangler and selling the new model only. And there were some lost Ram sales as the plant prepares to launch the new heavy-duty trucks.
Manley said sales will get a boot in the second half of the year with the launch of the new Jeep Gladiator pickup and the Ram heavy-duties. Both launches are on track.
The outlook is not as promising for the Chrysler and Dodge brands, which suffered from poor sales of cars and minivans. FCA has announced plans to end the third shift of minivan production in Windsor, Ontario, by September 30. It plans to invest in the plant for new product, which is expected to include an all-wheel-drive version of the minivan. Windsor could also get a new Chrysler crossover based on the same minivan platform.
Meanwhile, efforts are underway to turn around fortunes in Asia and Europe. The Fiat Chinese joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group is being restructured. In Europe, FCA faced big fines for not having enough electric vehicles to meet emissions regulations. That prompted FCA to strike a deal with Tesla to pool its fleet and bridge the gap for a few years until FCA has more electrified vehicles on the road and can use its own technology to be compliant. Manley said he’s also looking at more partnering with Peugeot to develop future vehicles.