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Maserati Australia pushes right-hand-drive case

Declining UK markets sees Australia rise in Maserati right-hand-drive rankings

16 Nov 2018

MASERATI Australia says it now has a bigger say on what products are manufactured in right-hand drive (RHD), despite right-hook markets accounting for less than eight per cent of the brand’s overall volume.
 
However, speaking to journalists last week at the Levante launch in Albury, NSW, Maserati Australia chief operating officer Glen Sealey explained that the small combined size of RHD markets is making it even harder to justify production of certain variants.
 
“Right-hand-drive petrol for Levante has been a difficult one to secure, because at the end of the day, right-hand drive is less than eight per cent of global production,” he said. “The investment decision on right-hand drive, being made by every OEM now, is under scrutiny.”
 
When the Levante launched Down Under in February last year, it was only available with a diesel engine as the overwhelming popularity of oil burners in rival models prompted the decision to prioritise its right-hand-drive production.
 
However, two petrol V6s have since been added to the line-up, one of which is expected to overtake the diesel and become the new best-selling variant, while a third – the V8 GTS – will lob in the fourth quarter of 2019.
 
When asked if Australia has a larger influence on right-hand-drive production, given that the once-dominant UK market is currently in decline due to Brexit and other variables, Mr Sealey indicated that this is the case.
 
“We look after Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, so that gives us some level of sway in right-hand drive, and our requests and business cases, as well,” he said.
 
“Having the three right-hand-drive markets is helpful, because that then sets us up as the biggest right-hand-drive market, as a combined force, second to only the UK.”
 
As such, Maserati Australia is in a better position than before to make a case for the production of desirable left-hand-drive variants, such as the 440kW/730Nm Levante Trofeo performance flagship that Mr Sealey “absolutely” wants to see head Down Under.
 
“It’s got to be a business that works,” he said. “At the end of the day, car companies are no different to any other public company today. Any project that they undertake has to be underpinned by a return on capital.
 
“If there’s no return on capital, you simply don’t do it, and that’s the cold, hard reality of a public company today.”
 
Mr Sealey hinted that sales expectations would be low for the Trofeo if it received the green light, meaning buyers would be faced with an inflated pricetag to make the business case stack up.
 
“If you go low volume, you have to go high price to generate a return, or if you can get a certain level of volume, you can work with the pricing,” he said.
 
“It’s trying to find a sweet spot that enables it to work in the marketplace, as well as enabling a return for the factory.”
 
As reported, the aforementioned GTS could cost about $250,000, which would suggest the Trofeo might break the $300,000 barrier, placing it out of reach for even more Maserati enthusiasts.

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