Yes, Virginia, there is an economic stratosphere where lucky supercar fanciers roam that never is touched by common things like recession. No one worries about zero percent financing. And the super lux carmakers never stress over things such as platform synergies.
Consider Ferrari. The Italian automaker in the last three years has spent $350 million revamping Maserati’s production facility in Viale Ciro Menotti, Modena. It plans to spend another $250 million over the next four years for a new Maserati headquarters, machine shop and paint shop.
All this bodes well for the U.S., as Maserati will bring its new 4.2L V-8 390-hp drop-top Spyder, which goes on sale in Europe this month, to the U.S. in March. It will mark the first time the marque has touched U.S. soil in 12 years.
Ferrari took over Maserati Italy’s oldest exotic carmaker after Volkswagen group, which owns Ferrari, bought Maserati in 1993 and transferred full control to Ferrari four years later.
Less you obsess over the expected $90,000-plus price tag, you should know each Spyder is expected to take 72 hours to assemble and will include more than 30 subassemblies provided by more than 400 suppliers. Some 18 units will be turned out on a single shift, with a second line to be added once sales begin in the U.S. going from 2,000 units this year to 3,800 cars in 2002 and 4,500 by 2003.
Maserati predicts it will sell upwards of 40% of its Spyder and coupe models in the U.S. If all goes well, it will add a 4-door model similar in size to the Mercedes S-Class by 2004, as well as possible performance variants of the Spyder and coupe.
Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo is discouraging the thought that Masarati be looked at as a low-level Ferrari, noting they are two very different companies. “If you want an extreme car in terms of price and performance,” he says, you want a Ferrari. “If you want a car you can drive everywhere…you want a Maserati.”
Can there be any doubt about pent up demand for the new Masarati? Move over BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes and Porsche. The Italians are coming.
WARD’S AUTOMOTIVE REPORT