Saturday, November 24, 2007
Maserati: Now A Chick Brand
You won’t exactly call Maserati's Quattroporte a "chick car," will you?

Maserati has etched a machismo stigma. But wait, look around time has brought Maserati some Y chromosome shoppers.

Maserati Quattroporte, the $115,000-worth sedan, with 400 horses under the hood, boasts of a mix of power and prestige in chic Italian doses. But the automaker said it has seen a growing number of women coming into dealerships ready to drop more than a hundred grand for the plush ride.

Since the debut of the automatic transmission in the Quattroporte, Maserati sales have increased 49% thanks to the six-speed automatic ZF transmission and the car's idiosyncratic style.

"There are a lot of reasons a woman would like the Quattroporte automatic," said Jeff Ehoodin, a Maserati spokesman. "They are much more pragmatic and that leads them to the sedan, and the automatic transmission certainly makes it more appealing because it is easier to drive. And look at it, it's beautiful."

Ehoodin did not have numbers showing how many women have purchased the 1,718 Quattroporte sedans sold through October but said the company expects this year to sell between 2,500 and 2,600 vehicles in the United States, which represents about 40% of the automaker’s global sales.

According to Autodata Inc. the upper luxury market, cars costing at least $65,000, has grown this year 4.2%, with 125,000 vehicles sold, despite overall luxury sales dropping 5.5% through October.

The Detroit News reports:

Designed by Pininfarina, the Italian design firm that has worked with the likes of Ferrari, the Quattroporte maintains long curvy lines along its body and a hand-crafted interior. Maserati also ties other names to its vehicles that might appeal more to women. The Maserati GranTurismo has luggage designed by fashion icon Salvatore Ferragamo, who is to shoes what Brembo is to brakes.

Designer labels, however, won't make any car easier to drive, an automatic transmission will. "About 90% of the U.S. market is automatics," Brinley said."Before, if you didn't drive a manual, you didn't drive these kinds of cars."

John Henke Jr., a marketing professor at Oakland University said the automatic shifter could seal the deal, but the vehicle's exclusivity plays a more important role in catering to a growing number of women who can afford it.

"From a demographic standpoint, these people are more frequent," Henke said. "They're way up there in the economics (making more than $200,000 a year). And more women are moving into those type of positions where they have that kind of money."

In the high-end luxury segment, Maserati could be an alternative to vehicles such as the BMW 7 Series or the Mercedes-Benz S Class, said Stephanie Brinley, an analyst at AutoPacific, an automotive research and consulting frim. "But it's much more exclusive than BMW or Mercedes," she said, noting that the 7 Series and S Class have sold nearly 34,000 vehicles through October.

"Really, these kinds of vehicles are a lifestyle choice; they are sexy and exclusive." Brinley added that if Maserati is drawing in more female customers, it's because that group of buyers has so few places to turn. "It's definitely an untapped market," she said.

The increase in sales is not that surprising to some. "I would think this is a very good practical, but expensive, vehicle," he said. "It's limited edition has the cachet as being very expressive and allows the women who can afford it the luxury showing the world they have arrived." More importantly, he added, is women in this group want to pamper themselves more than brag about how much money they make.

"They've accomplished something," he said. "It's not about showing off. They can afford it, they can buy it, and it makes them feel good and self assured."
posted by Car Addict @ 5:41 AM  
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