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Maserati Levante SUV possibly joined by larger model

The newly released Levante may be joined by other Maserati SUVs in the future.

Maserati Australia has indicated that the exclusive Italian brand may have to expand its stable of SUVs beyond the recently released Levante, to adapt to the shift in preference from passenger cars to SUVs.

According to Maserati Australia chief operating officer Glen Sealey, the company has expressed interest in an upper-large SUV to sit above the Levante in the Maserati range to do battle with the likes of the ultra-luxury Bentley Bentayga.

Speaking at the launch of the Levante, Mr Sealey indicated that Maserati customers would happily pay up to $400,000 for one of its cars, which in SUV form would put it in competition with the Bentayga and, potentially, the upcoming Lamborghini Urus.

"By the time you put a Quattroporte GTS Gran Lusso/Gran Sport on the road, you're edging toward $400,000. People pay that. So we can stretch the brand up to that level," he said.

Mr Sealey said the prospect of bringing in an SUV would be impossible to ignore.

"Can we do that in an SUV? Yeah, absolutely. The possibility is there, as long as the brand can sustain it, (so) if the product is there we'll go 'okay'."

Mr Sealey said an upper-large SUV could compliment the Quattroporte, which Maserati sees as the signature car for the brand. However, market trends would have to indicate the desire for an ultra-luxury four-wheel drive for it to become a possibility.

If in five years' time the desire for a luxury saloon such as the Quattroporte had waned, Mr Sealey said the prospect of bringing in an SUV would be impossible to ignore.

"We must move where consumer demand wants to take us," he said. "Where you invest now to get more return... clearly there is a trend toward SUVs."

When asked if Maserati would need to make a decision on whether to give the green light to an upper-large SUV project given the many years it takes to develop a new car from scratch, Mr Sealey said a decision had not yet been made, pointing out that modern technology such as CAD modelling and photo printing can drastically shorten the development time of a new vehicle.

Speculation was furthered by another Maserati representative who explained that the growth in the SUV sector was most prominent in premium offerings, and that the trend was likely to continue.

Jeep has announced it will release its Range Rover-baiting Grand Wagoneer in 2019, and given Jeep's relationship with Maserati under the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) umbrella, it is possible a Maserati large SUV could be built borrowing components from the Jeep offering.

In a report with Automotive News this week, FCA chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne said the Giorgio platform which underpins the Giulia sedan and Stelvio mid-size SUV from Alfa Romeo would also be used across multiple FCA brands.

He admitted that he may have to reconsider the possibility of a smaller vehicle to slot underneath the Levante in the future.

He also added that the Giorgio architecture would form the basis of "the whole Maserati development beyond 2018".

In the past Mr Sealey has said Maserati would never offer an SUV under the $150,000 mark, and currently that figure is still the baseline for its models, however he admitted that he may have to reconsider the possibility of a smaller vehicle to slot underneath the Levante in the future.

"If we chose to go downmarket with something smaller, it would have to be something that incorporates those six brand pillars for Maserati," Mr Sealey said, listing the aforementioned pillars as performance, sound, exclusivity, Italian made, craftsmanship and design.

"Whether that would be something smaller and far sportier, I don't know (but) certainly there is a market opportunity there."

Should luxury brands stick to making smaller performance cars? Or are hot SUVs the way of the future? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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