|Modena, Italy, 22 October, 2002|
Maserati is a company with an even longer and more chequered history than Ferrari, who
were one of their main rivals on the racetracks of the world during the nineteen fifties, and
in the sales showrooms of high performance cars during the sixties and seventies. The
paths taken by the two companies were long and varied, but eventually through the Fiat
empire they became stable-mates in July 1997, when Ferrari acquired 50% of Maserati
from Fiat, with an option to purchase the remaining 50% before the end of the year 2000.
They took up this option in November 1999, and thus at that time Maserati became wholly
owned by Ferrari.
As noted, in 1997 they purchased fifty per cent of the company from the parent Fiat group,
concurrently taking full management control. Their first priority was to bring the production
facility up to date, then instigate a five year investment plan, to increase production of a
new model range with an emphasis on quality control and customer satisfaction, which
had been lacking in the past, and which had tarnished the company’s reputation.
State of the art production line
To achieve the first objective, they closed the factory for six months, stripped out the
archaic machinery and installed a state of the art production line. This facility is the most
modern of any small series car manufacturer in the world. It carries the bare painted
bodyshell (painted at the Ferrari facility in Maranello) in a tiltable cradle suspended from a
monorail, through a series of work stations where different elements are added,
eventually emerging at the end of the loop as a complete fully functioning model, ready for
its road test. Throughout the production process there is a high element of manual
labour, as befits the hand-built image of the Ferrari and Maserati marques. The
management team and workforce were recruited anew upon the re-opening of the facility,
and there is an air of commitment in their attitude in the workplace, with pride in the
finished product. The investment continues, with a new staff car park completed, new
sales offices and a striking new nine story administration tower scheduled for completion
at the end of 2002.
Initially the Quattroporte model was substantially reworked, with over four hundred
changes, to become the "Evoluzione" model, and a completely new model the 3200 GT
was introduced in 1998. The latter was the company flagship for three years, and was
pivotal in re-establishing the company in the marketplace. It provided luxury 2+2
accomodation in an elegant coupe body, with a front mounted 3.2 litre twin turbo V8
engine driving through a six speed gearbox, with the option of automatic transmission, to
provide a top speed of over 170 mph, along with tremendous acceleration. Allied to this
were powerful disc brakes integrated with a sophisticated traction control system, which
allowed the power to be used with maximum security.
During 2000 Maserati produced a total of 2027 cars, 1850 of which were the 3200 GT,
and the balance Quattroporte Evoluzione models. The Quattroporte ceased production in
March 2001 with the completion of a series of cars for Japan. A replacement is currently
being developed in conjunction with Pininfarina, with a projected launch date during 2003.
Since then projected production and sales targets have been achieved, and the ”Tridente”
is becoming a more familiar sight on the road. At the 2001 Geneva Salon a limited edition
3200 GT called the ”Assetto Corsa” 3200 GT was announced as a run of 350 cars.
Among the special features were lowered suspension and stiffer springs to provide a
firmer ride, fifteen spoke road wheels unique to this model with soft mix Pirelli P Zero
Corsa tyres, plus red brake calipers with harder pads.
A new open 2 seater model, similar in appearance to the 3200GT, was launched at the
Frankfurt salon in September 2001, with a keen eye on the American market. The
company had not been represented in the USA for some considerable time, thus re-
establishing a presence there was one of their prime objectives. The Spyder, as it was
called, went on sale in October 2001, and made its American debut at the Detroit Show in
January 2002, with sales starting shortly afterwards through a network of thirty dealers,
some of which, as in a number of other markets, were existing Ferrari dealers.
The Spyder differs mechanically from the 3200GT, in that it is powered by a normally
aspirated V8 engine of 4.2 litre capacity manufactured at the Ferrari plant in Maranello,
instead of the 3.2 litre twin turbo V8 unit of its predecessor. The assembled engines
arrive at the Maserati factory where they are put on a test bed for two hours, and then sent
to the mechanical assembly plant to be mated to the transmission before going to the
production line as a complete assembly to be fitted into the body unit. The Spyder has an
electrically operated folding roof that is fully automatic in operation, and is stowed
beneath a metal panel when retracted. The Detroit Show in 2002 also witnessed the
announcement of the replacement for the 3200 GT, called simply the ”Coupe”. It is
visually similar to the outgoing model, apart from the revised bonnet and rear light
treatment first seen on the Spyder. Both models have the option of either a manual six
speed gearbox, or the ”Cambio Corsa” electro-hydraulic steering column paddle change
At the Paris Salon in September 2002 a new racing model was introduced, called the
”Trofeo”, this Coupe derivative will be leased to clients for a one model race series during
the 2003 season. Initially a production run of thirty examples is planned, and the interest
from prospective entrants has been very positive. Examples of the model were
demonstrated by Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barichello at the Ferrari end of
season Challenge finale at the Misano circuit in October 2002.
Maserati is regarded as the growth potential element of the Ferrari group, as Ferrari are
already producing cars at their own conceptual maximum output to preserve the
exclusivity of the marque. The "Tridente" of Modena may not have the same mystique as
the "Cavallino Rampante" of Maranello, but its sporting reputation is well established with
a fine pedigree stretching back a long way, and with the new model line-up should go
from strength to strength.