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Maserati Australia keeps diesel alive – for now

Cautious approach to EVs highlights Maserati Australia’s reaction to five-year-plan

15 Nov 2018

MASERATI Australia says its Levante large SUV will indefinitely be available with a diesel engine, while it will adopt a cautious approach to the rollout of electric vehicles outlined in the brand’s five-year plan recently released by parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).
Speaking to journalists last week at the Levante launch in Albury, NSW, Maserati Australia chief operating officer Glen Sealey was optimistic about the future of diesel, despite its 10.6 per cent year-to-date decline in private passenger-car and SUV sales.
“We still see a good future for diesel,” he said. “We’ll continue to sell diesel, (because) in the Australian market, there’s still a desire for diesel.
“It’s a very good propulsion for an SUV, in the torque that it offers and the smoothness of the drivetrain overall with the new technology in diesels.
“Also, given the distances between towns in Australia, combined with the ease of overtaking, it really does make diesel quite a good propulsion for an SUV.”
Of the 51,992 diesel passenger cars and SUVs sold to private buyers to the end of October, the latter accounted for 48,966 sales, or 5.0 per cent (-0.5%) of the declining overall market, an indication that demand is still relatively strong.
When asked if diesel has a long-term future in Maserati’s model line-up Down Under, given that its discontinuation was foreshadowed in the five-year plan, Mr Sealey suggested that new-vehicle buyers will determine if that is the case or not.
“As manufacturers, we can say that we’re going to set the trend, but at the end of the day, the consumer will always set the trend,” he said.
“In the Australian market, if you look at the sales of EVs or certainly full-electric vehicles, they’re quite small, compared to the overall market.
“There’s a sizeable investment by all manufacturers now to compete in a small market – that’s for Australia only.”
Hybrid sales are up 14.5 per cent in the year to date, but they only command a 1.1 per cent share of the overall market, while EVs have increased their volume by 24.8 per cent but account for an even smaller, 0.01 per cent slice.
Mr Sealey added that Maserati Australia will still follow the five-year plan but timings for certain models and variants will depend on the establishment of a much stronger EV charging network.
“From a Maserati perspective, Maserati will indeed, as stated, go into not just internal-combustion engines, but hybrid engines and also full-EV production.
“That’s going to be an interesting transition. In five years’ time, it’ll be interesting to see if the infrastructure is around Australia to facilitate mass buying of EVs.
“At the end of the day, if the structure’s not there, the technology becomes an inconvenience rather than a convenience. It’s hard to see the consumers en masse going to EVs.”
As reported, the overdue Alfieri sportscar and a mid-size SUV are two of the eight plug-in hybrids that Maserati plans to usher in alongside four EVs by the end of 2022, all of which Mr Sealey hopes to launch Down Under.
“We’d still like to sell them all here,” he said. “We always put up our hand for every vehicle that we possibly can, (and) we try to homologate every car for the market.”

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