The Ghibli-based SUV, which is set for a world unveiling at January's Detroit motor show, is late to the party: original plans to have it based on a Jeep Cherokee platform were scrapped in favour of the Ghibli and Quattroporte platform, with production also shifting from the USA to Italy as a result.
Nonetheless, the Levante is expected to outsell the Ghibli sedan and become the brand's best selling model, according to Maserati Australia boss Glen Sealey, who is aiming to increase overall sales three fold to 1350 units per year by 2018, on the back of Australia’s love of SUVs.
Speaking with CarAdvice at the local launch of the 2016 Maserati Quattroporte this week, Sealey said there's "no question" that the SUV market is powering ahead.
“If you look at the numbers today, you are seeing that the large sedan [segment], as an example, is coming off significantly, while the SUV market is still going quite well," he said.
“There has been a displacement within both markets for a period of time to move from the traditional sedan market to that SUV market, and that’s no difference in the luxury segment.”
Despite the shift to SUVs, Sealey says that the luxury sports cars segment is maintaining its growth, with the brand set to introduce a new sports coupe (Alfieri) as well as a replacement for the ageing but still well received GranTurismo before 2018.
Pricing for the Levante SUV is expected to mirror or perhaps even undercut that of the Ghibli, which starts from around $150,000.
“Australia and New Zealand are unique markets. If you look at typically the sedan version of the SUV, you see that the SUV offers more metal, more features and sometimes more horsepower and is less [expensive] than the equivalent sedan version, so there’s no wonder that there has been a trend towards SUV," Sealey said.
Sealey says Maserati customer's appetite for an SUV has been strong for many years. As far back as the original Kubang concept in 2003 (above).