Maserati (FCAU) has been around for over a century, making everything from luxury grand tourers to Formula 1 race cars. But after a mixed bag of results in the US, along with financial difficulties, the Italian carmaker retreated from the states in 1989.
Twelve years later, Maserati made a triumphant return to the US in 2001 with the highly-acclaimed Spyder. Fast-forward to today, and the carmaker has five models on offer and just had its best year in the US, selling 12,534 vehicles, a 7% improvement from the prior year.
Tom Shanley, head of Maserati North America, says sales had a boost from one big launch – the Levante SUV.
“If you look at what’s happening in the auto industry right now, there’s this big push into SUVs,” Shanley says in the video above. “I think to be relevant in the United States, you have to have an SUV.”
Maserati also built out its dealer network and introduced a refreshed Quattroporte full-size sedan, but it was the release of the Levante in the back half of 2016 that pushed the brand forward.
Italian car buffs might get agita from a heritage-rich brand like Maserati going the SUV route. It’s the same criticism Porsche (PAH3.F) faced with the introduction of the Cayenne and Macan SUVs, with owners and fans believing it would sully the brand. With thousands of vehicles sold, Porsche is laughing all the way to the bank, and its sports cars are in as high demand as ever.
Shanley says the Levante is Maserati through and through. “First of all, it’s built in Italy, a 100% Italian car,” he boasts, adding that the engines offered in the Levante—two versions of a 3.0 liter V-6 twin engines—are sourced from Ferrari (RACE). “When you get behind the wheel and drive the car, it drives and feels like a Maserati should,” he says.
While the Levante has been collecting accolades and big sales gains for the brand, lots of fans are asking about something else—when the next Maserati hypercar will be released. The MC 12 is still highly sought after today, and Shanley noted there is much demand for an MC–like hypercar. “I’d love to see it; I think it would be great for the brand, so we’ll see.”
Maserati fans, those with deep pockets or even bigger dreams, have their fingers crossed.
Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him here.