Brother Can You Spare $135,000?
Maserati debuts GranTurismo convertible amid the rough waters of a recession
Maserati’s first-ever 4-seat convertible goes on sale in the spring, at a cost of roughly $135,000 ... to start. The GranTurismo’s standard engine will be the operatic 4.7-liter, 440-horsepower V8 that tickled my ears and most other senses when I drove the GranTurismo coupe in Modena, Italy, earlier this year. And Maserati officials hinted that the smaller 4.2-liter, still offered on the GranTurismo and Quattroporte sedans, won’t be around much longer.
Mark McNabb, the former Nissan and General Motors executive and now Maserati’s North American CEO, acknowledged the uphill climb for hyper-expensive brands. Maserati had been gaining momentum, re-establishing itself after years away from the American market, but will likely finish 2009 with sales down nearly 40 percent. The good news is that every other six-figure brand is on the same rocky playing field.
“Doesn’t matter if you’re an up-and-comer or an established brand, it’s tough for everyone,” McNabb said, adding that Maserati has seen some hopeful signs and increased orders in recent months.
Since taking the job, McNabb has worked to bring Maserati’s swollen inventories into line and to chop away at costs.
“If I have to check how many pencils he’s using, I will,” McNabb said, casting a glance at Maserati’s American PR chief Jeff Ehoodin.
Jim Glickenhaus, the investment manager, former movie director and noted Ferrari collector, was surveying the scene.
“Two years ago, there’d have been a line out the door,” Glickenhaus said, gesturing to the half-filled room. “You don’t need the velvet ropes anymore.”
(Glickenhaus owns both the oldest Ferrari in existence -- chassis #002, the cycle-fendered 166 Spyder Corsa racer from 1947 -- and the P4/P5, a one-of-a-kind Ferrari that the Pininfarina design house built to his specifications.)
The recession, he said, has high-end buyers looking for genuine value, whether in history, collectibility or craftsmanship. Cream-of-the-crop brands like Ferrari and Maserati (both owned by Fiat) will continue to exist, he said, but the go-go days are over for now.
“Duesenberg went of business in the Depression, not because people couldn’t afford Duesenbergs, but because no one wanted to drive them past the bread lines,” he said. Today’s situation is the same: “It’s just not much fun to flaunt.”
For Ferrari, he said, the notorious years-long waiting lists and huge dealer premiums over list price have vanished. The 599 GTB Fiorano, once so hot that some prospects shelled out premiums of $100,000 or more to secure one, can now be had by anyone with the $320,000 sticker price in hand because, as Glickenhaus noted, dealers are faced with skittish customers who have backed out of taking delivery on pre-ordered cars.
“I could get you eight of them by next week,” he said.
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