There has been more and more talk about a possible upcoming SUV from Maserati. Today more details broke and it is clear to me that this Fiat-Chrysler relationship is going to be mishandled.
So far all that we knew about the off road Maser is that it would be based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee’s chassis. Today we have been told that it will receive Chrysler’s Hemi engines and not a European sourced power plant from Ferrari (like all other Masers have). So, Jeep chassis and Chrysler engines; this is car is not a Maserati at all then, its a Jeep. They clearly plan to just throw on some curvy body panels (that will surely wind up looking awkward as hell), some Italian leather (if we’re lucky), the famous trident badge, and then add 250% to the price. Wa-La!…..the Jeep is now a Maserati.
This is a big problem because they will be compromising the Maserati brand and reputation. They are clearly trying to target the top end SUV market created by Porsche’s Cayenne a few years back. The thing is though, when Porsche made the Cayenne they did not compromise it as “a Porsche” despite it being an SUV. It still had Porsche engines and Porsche engineering throughout it and because of this it succeeded greatly in blowing away any competition from other German makes (who have just now begun to catch up). The Cayenne sold well because it both appealed to existing Porsche customers because it was actually a good driving experience, and to the new breed of posers who just want a car with the word Porsche on it to look good in. The Cayenne has had staying power because underneath the image it is a real Porsche designed car.
Europeans have a knack for making their SUVs drive much more like a car than a big truck. American SUVs, on the other hand, drive like big clumsy busses and have the sporting abilities of a cruise ship. If the Jeep chassis is used with Chrysler’s V8s then this Maserati will drive exactly like a Jeep SRT-8, this is not becoming of any vehicle from such a fine European marquee that will command such a high price, not even close. This Maserati will be 100% compromised and will have none of that Italian quality that gives a Maserati its allure. It will have no soul, no feeling of specialty to it when you’re driving it. Worse yet I’ll even bet it will have that cheap detached feel in the steering and pedals that every other American SUV has. It will surely be awful. I am not against Maserati making an SUV, but it must be a true “Maserati” through and through not some American hack job imposter.
Now for the question of, will it sell? I’m sure there will be many individuals with more money than taste who will jump at it right away, but I don’t think it will have any lasting appeal because of its sure to be too high price (out of range even for most posers), and the fact that it will fall short as a car compared to its rivals, the Cayennes, X5s, and MLs, which will cost less money and not drive like a bus. It will likely only stay on the market for a year or two unless they make it cheap so more of the posers can afford it. Rest assured though, it will be in every Rap video and tire commercial you can count when it comes out, but unlike the Chrysler 300 it will be far too expensive to become a fad.
I really do hope the executives will rethink this move and make things right before this abomination is released. I really think it is a mistake for all parties concerned and it shows very bad direction for the resurgence of the Fiat Group into America. What’s next, an entry level Ferrari based on the Dodge Caliber? Come on…