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Maserati

Maserati Boss Bill Peffer Says It's Ready to Take on the Competition

The Italian brand is thriving under parent company Stellantis

  • Last week, Maserati showed the convertible version of its MC20 supercar in America for the first time.
  • With sports cars, sedans, EVs, and SUVs in the hopper, Maserati Americas CEO says the brand is ready for the future.
  • Peffer is bullish about the dealership network, indicating the brand has no intention of selling its models directly to customers.

Maserati is emerging from its villa in Modena, Italy, finding comfort in the embrace of parent company Stellantis (the conglomerate that owns Jeep, Dodge, Fiat, Maserati and a handful of other brands) after its breakup with Ferrari. Signaling an openness to new opportunities in the market while acknowledging its 107-year legacy doesn't seem to be a challenge for Maserati. The first piece of evidence? The American debut of the 621-horsepower MC20 Cielo (a convertible version of the MC20 supercar) last week, which will be sold alongside the Levante and Grecale SUVs.

The combination of luxury SUVs and racing-inspired supercars may seem odd, but not to William Peffer, Maserati Americas CEO. In an interview with Edmunds, Peffer said that while the brand is building its fastest sedans ever (with the Ghibli Trofeo and Quattroporte Trofeo), Maserati is "compressing" a bit on sedans and moving where the market is. And that means more SUVs and supercars. Enter the five-seat compact Grecale SUV, which starts at $63,500. Peffer sees new buyers, which leads to a pipeline of opportunity.

"The Grecale opens up an audience," Peffer said. "This plays in the SUV segment, the largest segment, which is forecasted to grow by another 25%. The Grecale will open the door to people considering a Maserati."

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Upmarket supercars

Displayed at The Quail — an über-luxury car show held during Monterey Car Week — the MC20 Cielo (literally meaning "sky" in Italian) attracted its fair share of attention. Sitting next to a Grecale Trofeo SUV and the MC20 coupe on its own stage, the Cielo is a stunner. Adorned in an exclusive hue-shifting finish called Acquamarina, the convertible sports butterfly doors and the Trident logo up front.

Even with the market headed briskly toward full electrification, Maserati giving up its knack for spine-tingling engine notes is tough to imagine, but there's no doubt that's the direction Maserati is headed. Across town from The Quail, the Trident-bearing marque was rumored to have revealed its new all-electric GranTurismo Folgore at a private party, teasing its first-ever electric sports car. A CarBuzz reader even spotted the EV in Pebble Beach in a gorgeous shade of rose gold and shared the photos.

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When it comes to EVs, Peffer is supportive but not gung-ho. He knows his buyer profile, after all. The chassis of all of Maserati's new products are flexible to allow for either electrification or internal combustion engines.

"We will let the adoption curve happen the way it happens," Peffer said. "I mean, it's a European-Italian company. Other parts of the world have legislated a quicker movement to electrification, and we've reached a tipping point. I like having both [EV and gas-powered vehicles], but that doesn't mean that we're going to make a proclamation that 'By this date [we] will offer no more internal combustion cars.'"

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Maseratis are "objects of desire"

Maserati builds its cars in Italy, which makes its vehicles ineligible for any tax credits per the Inflation Reduction Act. When asked if the new law will make a difference on the company's bottom line, Peffer says no.

"Maseratis are not really objects of necessity; they're objects of desire," he said. "I'm not going to say we're immune to [the effects of the new law]. But I think the purchase price is probably a secondary consideration for our products versus maybe another vehicle that's more mainstream."

Peffer cut his teeth in sales and marketing at Ford, where he worked for a dozen years. He followed that up with nearly eight years at Nissan, a brief dance with Cadillac, and three years at Kia. He learned a bit about mainstream vehicles before joining Maserati in January of 2021, where sales strategies are very different from the high-volume brands he'd worked with before.

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"We spent a lot of time moving from a push model, which was more transaction price-based, to a pull model," Peffer said. "So that meant we took some painful decisions to cut our production and right-size the supply. The MC20s has been pre-sold through 2023, for instance, and we are not going to build just because we have that excess demand. There's short-term profit in [that method], but long term you're going to pay when you build one too many."

Dealership network stays intact

When it comes to selling its cars through a dealer network, Maserati isn't that much different from its mass-produced counterparts. Some, like Tesla, have found success through direct sales and there are indications that others may follow Elon Musk's lead on that front. Maserati, however, is staunchly pro-dealership.

"We've made a decision that the distribution network in the United States is through a dealer body," Peffer said. "We're going to maintain the network we have, and we want to build and grow it. There is plenty of room for dealers. We have about 120 of them to help grow their throughput, which unlocks profitability. Our dealer network is a vital piece of our proposition. We're not going to go direct."

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The competition keeps Maserati Americas CEO up at night

Peffer understands what is at stake for Maserati, and he's not immune to the pressure of elevating a century-old brand in the middle of a transformation.

"We've got a lot of room to grow, but the competition's good," Peffer said. "Nobody's sitting back right now; the industry is supercompetitive and the market is fairly closed. The U.S. market has high barriers to entry, and fairly high barriers to exit. It's unforgiving."

Maserati is on its way to building a brand worth drooling over, and it has proven itself resilient with an ardent fan base. Maserati, it seems, is just getting started.

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Edmunds says

With its Italian-built engines and style for days, Maserati has a long history of cranking out gorgeous cars. It appears that its legacy is not at risk anytime soon.