Bill Peffer, CEO of Maserati Americas on competition and electric cars

We spoke to Bill Peffer, CEO of Maserati Americas, about the brand's racing heritage, the return of the GranTurismo, electric cars, competition, and the future of the brand.

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Bill Peffer, CEO of Maserati Americas

Image: Maserati

Maserati is renowned for producing luxurious high-performance vehicles. With the world pivoting towards sustainability and automation, how do you envision the brand's future in terms of embracing innovative solutions such as electric/autonomous vehicles while maintaining the brand's distinctive identity and legacy? For example, what will the electric Maserati cars sound like?

You're right, Elijah, one of our unique selling propositions is the way our cars sound. The visceral response, the emotive response that people get when they experience one of our products. So that's a challenge for us, particularly as we move where the market is moving toward electrification. The marketplace globally with different homologation, with different regulatory [requirements], with different infrastructure curves, we're past the tipping point. This is not a fad anymore, electrification is here to stay. The question is how does Maserati – when sound, and engine, and emotion are all components of what make a Maserati a Maserati and what draws people to our brand – how do we execute off of that?

Well, one of the things that we did is we made these dual investments. So whether you look at a Grecale or MC20 or a GT, you'll see that the electric variant visually doesn't look any different than the gas variant but let's talk about the GT as an example. We created an electrified version of the GT, which has a battery pack with a T formation. Most of the competition in the performance category, in any category, people sit on top of the batteries. In Maserati's case, we didn't do that. We took the T formation front through the interior cockpit and then out to the rear. We package this battery to do two things. The driver and the passenger sit around the battery, which allows for a lower center of gravity. In fact, the battery version of the GT is only three millimeters taller. It's indistinguishable from the gas version, with packaging that allows for a 50/50 weight distribution.

Maserati MC20 at the Quail.

Image: Maserati

There is a solution for the sound. We'd love to get you behind the wheel of one and you'll experience that solution.

But the gas version of the GT has a 52/48, 52 in the front 48 weight distribution. The electric version, called Folgore;( the Folgore moniker will be used as the halo for each of the products in our lineup that go electric.) from every performance measurement, its superior to the gas version, including the weight distribution, the handling, the horsepower, the zero to 60, the top speed. It's really amazing. We're using the technology to amplify our performance. We're using the technology to establish the GT as the first wholly electric Maserati, it's in a class of one. There is no other Italian two door, four seat touring car on the marketplace that's fully electrified.

The automotive sector has become increasingly competitive. How does Maserati differentiate itself from the competitors in terms of product offering and overall brand positioning?

Maserati GranTurismo in Monte Carlo

Image: Maserati

The first thing is, Maserati is not for everybody. It's an emotional purchase. Our cars transact beyond the vast majority of offerings.

And it's about emotion, so it's a storied brand. The good news with Maserati is, the brand has been around a very long time, and it has a positive affinity. It's a brand that people resonate with, they understand what Maserati is. The challenge is, how do we educate them as we transform the product line, what the current offerings are, what they mean, and how we're evolving. We talked about the evolution to electrification. It will be important for us to maintain the elements of what people expect from Maserati through this transfer of technology. And we think we've done a good job in bringing that to market, but it's also the speed in which we're doing it. A few short years ago, we had just two sedans and we brought out an SUV. Now, less than five years later, we have our second SUV. The Grecale is also going to compliment the Levante at least for a period of time, so that will further legitimize us in this performance SUV space.

We also have a supercar back, the MC20. This is our first time back in the supercar space since the MC12 in the 2000s. And now we are returning an icon – the GT – after a five-year hiatus. Our heritage is important to us, as well as how we treat that heritage. There aren't that many brands that have been around as long as we have who are known for their performance, known for their emotive Italian craftsmanship, and the luxury payoff that they offer.

CEO of Maserati Americas with a Grecale

Image: Maserati

In recent years, digitalization and connectivity have transformed the automotive industry. With the Tridente app being developed as a means to connect with Maserati owners, how else is the brand leveraging these advancements to provide a unique customer experience?

We create a one-to-one relationship with the consumer. The Tridente App you mentioned is one of the ways we are building a community of enthusiasts – it’s also how we communicate with them on a regular basis to tell our story and evangelize them so they become not only followers of the brand, but advocates of the brand. And we hope that many of them will become owners as well. As we proliferate our lineup, the Grecale is really the most approachable model into the brand. It's exciting for us because it opens us up to a wider audience.

The technologies that we offer in the Grecale, specifically, are an ode. What do I mean by that? Well, technology was not something that Maserati was always recognized for. In the Grecale, MC20, and GT, we have included dual screen infotainment systems, standard Sonus faber premium speaker systems, and the Maserati Intelligent Assistant (MIA). We've always been known for our iconic clocks, but we now offer a digitized clock that acts as a personal concierge. You can speak to the clock and say, "Maserati, please set the temperature to 70 degrees," and MIA will adjust the temperature automatically. That's something that's resonating with customers. We also have one that's pretty interesting. I talked about an active lifestyle, a younger, more lifestyle-oriented customer – for those audiences, we created a wearable key.

Bill Peffer, CEO of Maserati Americas

Image: Maserati

And that wearable key is really like a fob you can wear on your wrist, so you won't have to worry about carrying bulky keys in your pocket if you're out mountain biking or exercising. That’s an example of a surprise and delight offering with Grecale specifically.

Maserati is one of the oldest car manufacturers in Italy. It has an incredibly rich history in car racing and luxury car manufacturing. What in the brand's DNA do you believe is the most important part that's made it possible to keep going all these years? How do you leverage this legacy to resonate with customers in the North American market to create a sense of exclusivity and desirability?

Well, you mentioned we're one of the oldest Italian car brands that's a performance luxury brand. We are also steeped in a historic racing history. We have recently returned to competitive racing with Formula E. We have committed to bringing out variants of our MC20 that are made for the GT2 series which are not necessarily available in the U.S. today, but will allow us access to going back to our history. We are a competitive brand and racing is part of our heritage, but we're also steeped in providing products that provide an emotive response to the consumers. And our customers don't necessarily expect or want to see our products on every street corner. When managing scarcity, there's a fine line between selling one too many or one too few – this is something that has been very important to maintain. I'll call it the allure and mystique of the brand over all of these years.

Bill Peffer with an MC20

Image: Maserati

Can you discuss the strategy for expanding Maserati's presence in the North American market? You just mentioned a couple of things that you have to manage. So, how do you expand your presence, keeping those factors in mind, and are there specific initiatives or plans to increase brand awareness and sales?

It starts with our dealer body. We have roughly 123 network partners in the U.S. and another 13 in Canada. We also have another 13 or so down in South America. And our path to growth is providing a consistent and elevated customer experience. Because we partner with our dealer network, it's important that we have a great relationship back and forth on what that means. The expectations of our consumers are no different than other car makers per se. It's the method and avenues in which we pay off on those expectations, which are different. We’ve come out with a new retail concept identity program that allows for customers to experience our brand, our Italian craftsmanship, and to do it in a low pressure environment, to do it with a configuration room to personalize their product.

And that's another piece of how we gain traction and grow is our personalization. We have a customization program called the Fuoriserie program, which really allows customers to express Maserati within their own tastes. We talk about managed scarcity, elevated curated experience where our customer base wants to have something that no one else has. And so this is a very important piece of how we grow sustainably, by providing the ability to express yourself through our products and through our customization program. Another piece of our growth is making sure we're in the right segments, segments that are growing. I mentioned that a few years ago we were a sedan company, and sedans as you know in the U.S., that segment has really constricted over the past several years as consumers have moved on to UVs. So we introduced Grecale, which plays in the DUV segment.

Maserati MC20 rear view

Image: Maserati

It's the largest out of three luxury products that are sold in that segment. It’s about being where there's growth, being where there's size. We're not out to be the biggest, ever. What we are out to do is leverage our brand through a curated experience and do it in places where there is a lot of opportunity for us to grow organically.

Another one is providing vehicles that provide a wider audience without breaking that mandate in scarcity and Grecale is a great example. Bringing in a younger more diverse consumer, a consumer that is more active in their lifestyle, that will help us generate a relationship and secure repeat business.


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