A chat with Umberto Cini, Managing Director Maserati Middle East, India and Africa.
How big is the automobile sector in the GCC region?
The total size of the GCC passenger car and light commercial vehicles sector is currently at more than 1.9 million vehicles.
How is Maserati doing in the MENA market? How did 2014 and the first half of this year go 2015 in terms of growth, sales and customer service?
We did very well, in fact. In the first half of this year, Maserati sales increased by 6.1 percent across Middle East, India and Africa compared with the same period of 2014. This was driven not only by entering new markets such as India and South Africa, but by developing our network infrastructure in order to deliver sales and service standards worthy of the Maserati brand, in proximity to our clients.
Maserati has publicly stated its goal to boost annual sales volumes to 50,000 vehicles by 2015. Is this a realistic target?
Globally, we are actually looking at 75,000 Maseratis annually by 2018. This projection is primarily based on the arrival of a new model to our line-up: the Levante, Maserati’s first luxury sports SUV will contribute to this growth. For the region, the Levante will be a key product for Maserati considering strong SUV affinity.
Do you confirm the reports that Maserati is working on a plug-in hybrid system to be launched in 2017? Do you plan to target the GCC region?
The production decision for plug-in hybrid vehicles has been confirmed by our global CEO, Harald J. Wester. However, a definitive timing for the introduction and whether this technology will be available in the GCC region has yet to be determined.
What do you see as challenges that could derail sales growth in the region?
We are working towards a very solid set-up in the region. We are working on a 360-degree strategy covering products, sales and after-sales service, network infrastructure and brand and ownership experience, in line with our Maserati core values. We are very positive that we can sustain a reasonable growth figure, bearing in mind that, by nature, Maserati’s sales figures will always remain very exclusive.
What will be the impact of fuel price deregulation in some of the countries in the region on the auto market in GCC countries?
The recent increase of petrol prices in the UAE has shown that those changes do affect the market. However, in the luxury segment – which Maserati operates in – consumer behaviour did not change significantly. Yet, our model year 2016 Ghiblis and Quattroportes will be arriving in the region with the latest EU6 emission standard as well as the “Start & Stop” function, in order to keep moving with the times.
What are people’s expectations when it comes to cars? Have you seen any change in customer’s behaviour in the GCC?
Consumer behaviour across the GCC has been relatively consistent over the past years. Our clients in the region are car aficionados who appreciate heritage, exclusivity, performance, craftsmanship, design and, in Maserati’s case, of course, Italianity. Individual preferences or equipment may advance, but the values that clients expect from a luxury brand like Maserati are timeless.
What will be the main trends in the automotive industry for the coming years?
The Middle East has traditionally been an SUV market, but over the coming months and years we will see the advent of the luxury SUV. Several brands including Maserati have presented concept or production-ready versions and it will be exciting to see the response of the market.
Trends vary across the globe, but what can be said of luxury consumers here is that they are becoming increasingly global and aware of international standards. The experience of purchasing and owning a Maserati should be the same here as anywhere else in the world. Luxury is becoming increasingly commonplace, so maintaining exclusivity, personal contact with the client and delivering individualised experiences become ever more important.
What are your expectations for the future?
Maserati’s future is bright. With new models and a fresh impetus moving through the entire organisation, we are able to build on more than 100 years of heritage and transition into a successful future. The next 100 years will be very exciting.
This interview has appeared in Arabic in AMEinfo’s sister publication Saneou al Hadath