As competitors gear up to put on display new luxury sport utility vehicles at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Maserati will keep its fans waiting a little longer as it makes final tweaks to a model meant to reverse falling sales of the Italian brand.
Bentley’s Bentayga and Jaguar’s F-Pace will be shown in Frankfurt and deliveries of Tesla’s electric Model X are due to start in two weeks.
The love affair with SUVs and their higher ground clearance have also prompted Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce to seek to compete in the popular segment.
The new Bentley Bentayga luxury SUV
Forecaster IHS Automotive expects global sales of premium and luxury SUVs to grow by more than 40% to 1.4 million vehicles between 2008 and 2018. Overall SUV sales are expected to triple to more than 25 million over that period.
Set for a 2015 launch according to a growth plan announced last year, the Maserati Levante SUV is now expected to debut by the end of the first quarter of 2016, most likely at the Geneva show in March.
Workers at the Mirafiori plant in Turin, northern Italy, are preparing for commercial production which Sergio Marchionne, chief executive at Maserati parent Fiat expects to start by January.
A Rolls Royce Wraith
"It’s a complex car and we need to test it before launching it," Marchionne said this month.
A Maserati SUV has been in the making for more than a decade since the first concept was presented in 2003.
Maserati hopes the Levante will help it emulate the success of Porsche, which set the standard for multiplying sales of an expensive brand without damaging the exclusive image that reaps big profits.
Marchionne is betting Maserati can still offer something unique: Italian design and engines made by sister brand Ferrari.
A Bugatti Veyron is presented during the Volkswagen group night on the eve of the Frankfurt Auto Show
Key to Levante’s success will be its reception in North America, home to 40% of Maserati’s sales last year.
The performance at Maserati is watched for clues about the potential success of a revamp at sister brand Alfa Romeo which is seen as even more crucial to FCA’s global expansion plan.
Alfa’s first new model, the Giulia sedan, will be shown at Frankfurt.
Sales of European cars on the rise
A Mercedes show car ’Digital Transformer’
European car sales rose 12% in August, the second-fastest gain this year, as rising economic confidence encouraged purchases of new sport utility vehicles from French manufacturers Renault and Citroen and luxury producers BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Registrations jumped to 781,676 vehicles last month from 701,251 a year earlier, the Brussels-based European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, or ACEA, said in a statement. Eight-month sales increased 8.6% to 9.38 million autos. That included growth of 9.5% in July.
BMW, the world’s biggest maker of luxury cars, is attracting customers with the coupe-like X4 and X6 SUVs.
Europe is a rare bright spot for carmakers as slumps in once-hot markets like China, Russia and Brazil are set to sap global growth this year. Volkswagen forecasts that global car-industry sales will be flat at 75 million vehicles in 2015, Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. He expects emerging markets to bounce back eventually.
European sales of Renault main brand increased 20% in August, helped by the introduction of the Kadjar compact SUV and continuing momentum from its Captur model. Peugeot Citroen posted a group sales gain of 9.2% in the region, as the C4 Cactus crossover helped propel a 14 percent jump at the Citroen marque.
Mercedes, which is poised to overtake Volkswagen’s Audi division as the world’s second-biggest luxury- car brand as its GLA compact SUV attracts customers, sold 19% more autos.
Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche leaves a Mercedes S 63 Coupe
Volkswagen, Europe’s largest carmaker, reported a 5.7% sales gain in the region last month, with jumps of 34% at the Porsche brand, 12% at the mass-market Skoda division and 8.2% at Audi. Ford sold 8.3% more cars in Europe, while competitor General Motors Co.’s Opel and Vauxhall brands posted a 15% jump, helped by the Mokka SUV.
BMW chief collapses on stage during motor show presentation
Chief Executive Officer Harald Krueger collapsed on stage
BMW was forced to end a press conference at the Frankfurt International Motor Show after Chief Executive Officer Harald Krueger collapsed on stage.
The CEO, 49, was escorted offstage by two assistants following the incident, which took place shortly after the briefing started. Krueger is being treated by a doctor after the “moment of dizziness,” BMW spokesman Maximilian Schoeberl said in a statement, adding that the CEO’s condition is stable and he’s recovering well.
BMW, the world’s biggest maker of luxury cars, is presenting a revamped version of its top-of-the-line 7-Series sedan at the show. Krueger was making his first appearance at the biennial trade event as BMW’s chief. He took the top post at the Munich-based carmaker in May.
Krueger hadn’t been feeling well Tuesday morning before the press conference, Schoeberl said. The incident happened after the CEO returned from recent trips abroad, the spokesman said.
A roundtable briefing with journalists scheduled for mid- morning will take place as planned, with Chief Financial Officer Friedrich Eichiner filling in for Krueger.