Maserati to Debut at L.A. Show

November 26, 2001

After a 10-year absence, Maserati plans to christen its comeback in the U.S at the 2002 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Now part of Fiat's Ferrari Group, Maserati says it will show off its new Spyder at the L.A. show in early January. "We will be debuting the 2002 Spyder in North America at the Los Angeles Auto Show," Stuart Robinson, president and CEO of Ferrari/Maserati North America, said in a statement last week.

Robinson also indicated that the marque plans to assemble a representative collection of historically significant Spyders for the exhibit. The exhibit will include several of Maserati's most famous open-air road and race cars from the 1950s, ‘60s and '70s, he said. Among the cars slated for display will be the Type 61 or "Birdcage," one of the most formidable sports cars in Maserati's long history, having dominated the sport throughout the '60s.

Heritage on display

This is the second year in a row the L.A. Auto Show has selected a manufacturer to stage a presentation that celebrates heritage. "The timing for Maserati is ideal," said Andy Fuzesi, general manager of the L.A. Auto Show. "Maserati has an exciting new Spyder ready for market and an 87-year history of building some of the most remarkable sports cars."

At the center of the Maserati exhibition, however, will be the 2002 Spyder, which Robinson described as an Italian thoroughbred.

The new Spyder is the result of a development project that began when the company passed into Ferrari’s control, following Fiat's acquisition of the historic Italian nameplate. In the past three years, Ferrari has sunk an estimated $350 million into the development of new products for Maserati.

The exterior design of the new Spyder comes from Ital Design, while Maserati’s own engineers tooled up a new, race-bred 390-horsepower V-8 engine that delivers an unrestrained top speed of 175 mph, Robinson said.

The price tag for the new Spyder will run about $90,000. Ferrari executives have predicted 40 percent of Maserati's total production of 3800 units next year will be sold in the U.S.

Steeped in history

The Maserati name is rooted in motor sports and has attracted some of the world's top race car drivers. Five-time World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio, Tazio Nuvolari, Stirling Moss and Carroll Shelby were among the notable drivers who drove Maseratis into victory lane on race tracks across Europe.

The Maserati brand, however, lost its once legendary allure during the 1980s as the quality of its vehicles and reputation for performance sharply declined.

The Chrysler Corp. acquired Maserati in the mid-1980s but Lee Iacocca was never able to revive the Italian carmaker's reputation or product line. The Maserati TC, the one product that resulted from the marriage with Chrysler, was a miserable flop and its failure led directly to the company's retreat from the U.S. market.

Chrysler eventually sold off the Maserati name and assets to a group of private investors and the company was in serious trouble before it was rescued by Fiat and Ferrari.

Sales of European brand cars have grown steadily in the U.S. during the 1990s. Brands like Peugeot, which have been out of the U.S. market for years, are now considering a comeback, and BMW is relaunching the Mini nameplate in the U.S. early next year.

Fiat and Ferrari clearly hope the growth in the popularity of European brands among affluent customers in the U.S. will now stretch to cover the Maserati nameplate.

story posted 11/26/01

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