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Maserati diversifying to take on BMW

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By Jennifer Clark

Fiat is pumping billions of euros into luxury brand Maserati, hoping that the tie-up with Chrysler will help it take on German rivals BMW and Porsche, as platform-sharing lets Fiat tap the US carmaker's expertise at making bigger cars and save on development costs.

Maserati chief executive Harald Wester said on Monday Fiat would be releasing three new Maserati models in a bid to lift sales to 50 000 cars a year by 2015 - including at least 13 000 of its new four-door Quattroporte sedans in 2013, compared with a about 4700 cars - across the whole Maserati rage - sold in the first three quarters of 2012.

SHARED BODY

The new Quattroporte is the second car built from a shared car body to be launched by Fiat since the start of its 2009 tie-up with Chrysler, and will compete with the BMW 7 Series and Porsche's Panamera.

It's priced from €100 000 - €150 000 (R1.12 million - R1.7 million) while a Porsche Panamera runs from €77 000 - €166 000 euros (R900 000 - R1.9 million).

The launch is being watched by enthusiasts and investors alike to see how effectively Fiat can use Chrysler's market access and technology to build up the Maserati brand in the United States.

ASPIRATIONAL BRAND

The sleekly styled new sedan is built in Turin, with an engine designed and manufactured in Italy by Ferrari. When Wester was asked how he intended to meet his aggressive sales target, he said: "This is a totally different car, and it speaks to a much broader range of customers."

Lorenzo Ramaciotti, head of design centre Centro Stile Fiat, said the new Quattroporte had been completely redesigned.

Wester added that this new version of the 1963 Maserati classic has all-wheel drive, which should also help to appeal to drivers in Canada, Russia and Scandinavia.

LONGER AND WIDER

It comes in V6 and V8 versions and, at 5.26 metres it is longer and wider than its predecessor, meaning it can also be chauffeur driven, and is 20 percent more fuel efficient than the model it replaces because 35 percent of its body is made of aluminium.

Wester said he was targeting Quattroporte sales of 80 000 over the seven-year life of the new model. He added that Maserati would increase its dealerships worldwide from 250 at the end of 2012 to 425 by 2015.

Later in 2013 Maserati will launch a smaller sedan called the Ghibli, priced from €50 000 - €100 000 (R560 000-R1.12 million). A new sports utility vehicle, the Levante, probably to be built at the Fiat factory Mirafiori in Turin, will follow in the third quarter of 2013. - Reuters

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