If it wasn’t for a ballsy intervention by FCA boss Sergio Marchionne, Maserati‘s first SUV would have been based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Levante development had commenced on the Grand Cherokee platform, with over a year of progress before work was halted.
Director of Maserati’s global markets, Umberto Cini, told CarAdvice that while there were always plans for a Maserati SUV to sit alongside the Ghibli and Quattroporte, it was originally slated to be an FCA Group heavy platform share.
“It has always been in the same study and plans [as the Ghibli and Quattroporte], but it required more development. Initially the project was completely different to what you see now. The initial thought was to have the group’s capabilities maximised to deliver a Levante based on the Jeep platform,” Cini said.
“This is where we started working over one year in this direction. One day Mr Marchionne said…no. A Maserati needs to be a Maserati. Scrap everything and start from scratch. This is what happened.”
Maserati engineers worked overtime to recover time lost on the project, but worked against the clock to make the 2014 deadline.
Instead, the car was released to global markets in 2016 with the upshot of now also sharing engines with Maserati’s performance sedan stable.
“So they really started from scratch and worked against the clock. The car was originally meant to be out in 2015, well actually the end of 2014, but came out much later.”
“We wasted one and a half years due to the project with Jeep, but I think it was a very wise decision and now we have a chassis and platform, which is a Maserati one. Everything is now 100 per cent Maserati,” Cini said.
The platform change also opens the brand up to further opportunities such as plug-in hybrid and high-performance engines.