Exported From Detroit

After BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and other luxury brands proved that having an SUV in their line-up does not necessarily dilute either brand image or value of flagship products, other ultra-luxury brands such as Bentley, Maserati and Lamborghini announced their intentions to jump into the segment with price tags of around…   are you sitting down?  200g’s.  While certainly pricey, complete with hand-crafted everything, 500+ horses (some with 12 cylinder engines), picnic set with silver and Lalique crystals standard, these brands are betting that there will be ample demand despite the current economic doldrums.  Not necessarily arguing with the logic (besides, what do I know – I only drive a Q7, which my business partner has repeatedly labeled as a chick-mobile), but I do find Maserati’s announcement that it will produce its SUV called Kubang in Detroit at a factory where the workers currently assemble Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos little more than curious.  They went further to specify that Kubang will share the same platform as the Jeep.

Whoa…   Am I the only person thinking this will never work, despite Kubang being slated to get Ferrari engines?  Many know that Audi / Porsche / VW have the same owner as do Toyota / Lexus, Honda / Acura and there are countless other mainstream and luxury brands that share similar DNA.  But Maserati and Jeep (Maserati is owned by Fiat, which bought Chrysler, who owns Jeep and Dodge brands)?  If this works, I think it will be one of the biggest automotive coups ever and good for Detroit.  If it doesn’t, maybe Maserati’s marketing team can blame it on the name – Bangku, slight change in order of the letters, means fart in Korean and I believe the word sounds similar in other East Asian languages.  Perhaps Maserati is not planning on many sales in those parts of the world – remember the classic gaffe by Chevy years ago, Nova?  And they wondered why the vehicle did not sell well in Spanish speaking countries…

Now only if Rolls comes up with minivans….


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About Richard Lee
Experienced finance and operations professional. Currently partner in five companies, adjunct professor of economics at Columbia College and executive contributor to a small business blog (www.SMBmatters.com); following corporate finance, M&A and management consulting tenures with Orbitz and Diamond Technology Partners; and six years of service with the United States Army.

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