Levante booked for late-year NZ appearance

Release of undisguised images of the new Levante, the first crossover in Maserati’s 100-year history, has prompted distributor comment about New Zealand can expect to see.


New Zealand’s ongoing enthusiasm for sports utility vehicles is expected to ensure Maserati’s high-stepping Levante will get off to a flying sales start on arrival late this year.

Glen Sealey, chief operating officer for Maserati in New Zealand and Australia, remains confident the Italian marque known purely for sports and fast grand turismo cars has perfectly timed the arrival of its first ever crossover.

“The SUV is a growing segment in New Zealand, and will expand the market Maserati competes in by more than 100 percent,” he said today in response to the release of official images of the new model ahead of its debut at next month’s Geneva motor show.

“We are very excited to see Levante break cover,” he said, assuring that “it looks even better in the flesh!”

 Mr Sealey said his Sydney-headquartered operation remains in the process of sorting out right-hand drive production schedules, however the intent to have the model in New Zealand by late 2016 remained solid.

“Our forecast of arrival late this year is still on track. We are in the process of locking away right hand drive production specification.”

While Maserati is best known for it high-revving, glorious-sounding petrol performance engines, the impetus for Levante is to go to the dark side, fuel-wise.

“Looking at the segment and how it is distributed our greatest priority is to secure the diesel version. You can be sure of a Maserati Levante with a diesel power train for New Zealand.”

The Levante has been a long time coming, but Mr Sealey has previously impressed that Maserati will not be arriving to the segment too late to take advantage of the incredible demand for anything with an all-terrain air.

Industry analysists say the SUV boom is unprecedented in New Zealand. Some brand suggest up to 50 percent of all passenger models sold in 2015 could qualify as sports utilities – though sometimes they also include high-end editions of one-tonne sports utes that, despite being mainly used for family and weekend recreation, are strictly speaking categorized as commercial vehicles.

Pricing has not been announced and while Maserati has made clear this will be an exclusive item, parent Fiat Chrysler Auto has suggested Levante’s sales growth might yet be constrained by a production cap of 75,000 a year.

At one time, FCA had intended to build the Levante in Detroit alongside the Jeep Grand Cherokee. But executives later scrapped the idea, saying the luxury brand must remain Italian-built, and then redesigned the vehicle, delaying its appearance.

Now the sole assembly plant is Fiat’s Mirafiori factory in Italy.

In a statement that accompanied the images here, Maserati said the Levante “features clear associations with the Maserati brand and its distinctive Italian character: the aggressive front introduces new, tapered headlights separated into two elements, with the upper headlight unit connected to the radiator grille.”

The crossover features a streamlined shape with a heavily tapered back window and frameless door windows.

The brand said electronic suspension with controlled damping and air springs will be standard on all versions, as will all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Details of its petrol and Euro6-compliant diesel engine variants have yet to be disclosed.