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New York show: Maserati boss defends Levante

True blue: Maserati CEO Harald Wester has defended the Levante as a proper Maserati, saying that its on-road capabilities will not disappoint.

Maserati’s Harald Wester says decision to go SUV is beyond question or criticism

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Maserati logo31 Mar 2016

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in NEW YORK

MASERATI has hit out at claims that the Levante is not true to the brand’s sportscar heritage.

Defending the upcoming sports luxury SUV at its second ever appearance at the New York International Auto Show last week, head of Alfa Romeo and Maserati Harald Wester said a vehicle was defined by its capabilities and not its shape. “It’s just another body type for a car,” he said. “And that means it should not be untrue (to the brand) as long as it drives, performs, smells and feels like a Maserati should. As long as it does all that, then it is a proper Maserati.”

Mr Wester said the Levante should not disappoint anyone with its capabilities because it would be a true Maserati through and through.

“As long as we are able to follow our customers’ tastes, then we will be OK,” he said.

The outspoken Maserati boss was just as animated when asked – not for the first time – why his company has decided to build an SUV in the first place.

“Why not!” Mr Wester proclaimed. “It is 50 per cent of the entire market here in the United States, so why wouldn’t we.”

He added that the move to SUVs would usher in a younger and far less male-dominated demographic than the audience attracted by the existing range of sports sedans (Ghibli, Quattroporte) and coupes (Gran Turismo and GranCabrio), thus helping to ensure the survival of the brand against arch rivals Porsche, Aston Martin, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

“(In many countries) you will notice that it is women driving SUVs,” he said.

“I have an idea why if you talk to (existing) SUV buyers … like towing capacity and high seating position.”

Due early next year in Australia, the Levante made its global debut at the Geneva motor show in early March after a protracted gestation that can be traced back to the Kubang concept SUV of 2003.

Powered by a choice of three 3.0-litre V6 turbos (two petrols and a diesel) co-developed with sister company Ferrari, the all-wheel drive Levante is based on the Ghibli and Quattroporte rear-wheel drive architecture but is tuned to “deliver a typical Maserati rear-wheel drive experience, even in low grip road conditions”, transferring traction to the front wheels when required. It will chase rivals such as the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X6 M.

As we reported back in March, Maserati Australia chief operating officer Glen Sealey told GoAuto that he expected the Levante will boost sales significantly in Australia.

“The Levante is the next step for Maserati under its growth plan,” he said.

“Australia has a great affinity for both SUVs and Maserati. As such we see a strong opportunity for Levante in Australia.”

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