THE Maserati brand has a very rich heritage,” said Mr Piyathep in a recent interview. “The company was established by the three Maserati brothers in 1914 in Bologna, Italy. The car’s logo was derived from Neptune’s trident as depicted in the Fountain of Neptune in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore.
“The Maserati brothers built race cars for another automaker before starting their own brand, and their cars were excelling in the sport of racing more than 100 years ago. Over the years Maserati cars won many trophies and awards in Europe, the United States and South America, and were a force in Formula One racing in the late 1940s and 50s.” Factory production of race cars was suspended in 1957, but Maserati cars continued to be used in Formula One races well into the 1960s. There are reports Maserati may return to Formula One racing in a partnership with an American team.
Maserati is now a subsidiary of the Italian-American company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the world’s eighth largest automaker. Other brands manufactured by FCAinclude Abarth, Alfa Romeo and Fiat.
Road Test of Maserati Ghibli
After listening to Mr Piyathep’s high praise for Maserati, it was time to take a sleek jet-black Maserati Ghibli out for a spin. The verdict?
The Maserati Ghibli is superior in every respect, starting with the handling. When it comes to night driving, acceleration, braking, instrumentation, seat comfort, sound system, soundproof cabin, taking corners at high speeds and the roaring insane sound of the engine, especially when using S mode, the Ghibli is in a class of its own. And to state the obvious, this car is a real looker. Everywhere I went it
was constantly turning the heads of pedestrians and other drivers. It was a sad moment when I had to return the car to the showroom after two days of driving in and around Bangkok.
The only negative that I can see is obvious. At 8.89 million baht this car is out of reach for most people. But for Thailand’s fortunate and not-so-few wealthy motorists, my advice is to sell your BMW, Benz or whatever else may be taking up space in your garage and buy a Maserati. After taking one for a test drive you may agree with me.
The Maserati Ghibli has a sixcylinder petrol engine with 2979cm displacement, producing 350 HP, and an eight-gear automatic transmission. The engine speed at max power output is 5500rpm; peak torque 500Nm; engine speed at peak torque 4500rpm; maximum speed 267km/h; acceleration (0-100km/h) 5.5s; stopping distance (100-0km) 35.5m; fuel consumption (urban circle) l/100km is 12.6 and fuel consumption (extra urban circle) l/100km is 6.8.
‘High luxury’ brand
“My company now offers all five models produced by Maserati, the latest being the Levante. This is a mid-size luxury crossover SUV introduced to the market in 2017,” said Mr Piyathep.
“More models are scheduled for introduction in the future. We have changed the strategy used by the previous importers. They looked at Maserati as a niche brand, but we see it as a ‘high luxury’ brand. In Thailand this means its status is higher than BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Audi. Worldwide, Maserati is trying to go head-to-head with Porsche.
“The price for a Maserati here ranges from seven million to 15 million baht. BMWs start at around two million baht and go up to about six million. We think many BMW customers may want to become Maserati customers. You see, that is a perfectly logical step for wealthy people in Thailand. People want to look richer than other rich people. Actually, this is a phenomenon not only in Thailand but in other Asian countries like Korea, Japan, Chinaand even Hong Kong.
“Wealthy people see Maserati cars as fun, kind of like a toy to impress their friends. That’s why Porsche sells very well in Thailand. Of course, Aston Martin is more expensive than Maserati and Rolls Royce more expensive still, but these cars send a different message. You can see from the price positioning of BMW, Maserati, Rolls Royce and so on that these brands do not compete with each other, but in fact they support each other.
“BMW and Mercedes Benz owners are in the same customer group, a group that wants to drive something a step above Toyota or Mazda. But now BMWs and Mercedes are everywhere, so people who want something more prestigious will go for a Porsche. This is the market for Maserati in Thailand we are competing primarily with Porsche.
“In Thailand, the perception of Maserati has always been quite good, but the past importers narrowed the appeal by targeting only people looking for a ‘super car’. Yes, we do sell super cars, but typically these are at the high end of our lineup, priced at over 10 million baht. We expect to sell a higher volume of cars priced under 10 million baht. We offer both petrol and diesel cars.”
“The old importer wanted to stop Maserati operations in Thailand, so SPA Maserati in Italy was looking for a new investor. They approached many players in the automotive business in Thailand and MGC Group was one of the candidates. MGC Asia Managing Director Dr Sunhavut Thamchuanviriya knew the former Maserati importers and he decided to purchase their stock of cars, spare parts, tools and equipment and expand Maserati’s operations in Thailand. All this was agreeable to the Italians and we got the brand we are the sole importer and distributor of Maserati cars in Thailand. The official signing of the agreement between SPA Maserati and MGC took place on February 17 at the Siam Kempinski Hotel,” said Mr Piyathep.
“We have invested in the brand and it has paid off. Sales of Maserati in Thailand increased 100% in 2017 over 2016. We have two showrooms in Bangkok, one in Sukhumvit Soi 26 and the second in Siam Paragon. We plan to expand the number of showrooms in the future. The Soi26 location is also our after-sales center. There we have all the high-tech equipment needed to maintain these state-of-the-art machines and staff who thoroughly understand the technology. Every tool is special. We invested around 30 million in the service facilities. We have many spare parts on hand and if a car needs something we don’t have it can be brought in quickly by DHL air freight. Waiting for parts is a thing of the past.
“The Maserati experience is all about passion for details and the performance. The signature sound of the engine tells you the proud racing heritage of Maserati cannot be ignored. It is a very special sound. What you see when you open up the hood is power and precision. When you get on the road it feels like you are driving a supercar, but in fact it is not a supercar or racing car, but a vehicle that is very suitable for daily use.
“I am very confident that Maserati will become increasingly popular with affluent Thais and expats, otherwise I wouldn’t have come over from our BMW Millennium dealership. Of course, I don’t expect to sell the same volume of Maseratis as I did BMWs. Millenium sells about 2,800 BMW cars per year; last year we sold less than 100 Maseratis. Overall my responsibilities are greater now than when I was just a salesman. I have to look after all operations such as the import of the cars, sales, marketing, after sales, parts, PR and so on. The combined staff working for Maserati at both locations is now 25 people.
Every sales person is well qualified to answer all questions about all models we sell. Anyone who is interested in owning a Maserati can come to our very nice facilities at Soi 26 and ask for a test drive.”
Winning over expats
I mentioned to Mr Piyathep that some expats I have met owned a Maserati in their home country and were interested in driving one here, but they are turned off when they look at prices and also have questions about service. He agreed that this is a challenge. “Thailand is a high tax country for imported cars.
Most probably these expats view Maserati cars as being expensive in Thailand. But they may have several cars, including BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class or maybe the smaller BMW 5 Series or Mercedes Benz E-Class, worth maybe 10 million baht altogether. These people can probably afford a Maserati as well.
Where all the pretty cars come from?
There is no shortage of ultrahigh-endcars on Bangkok streets, and their numbers seem to be increasing all the time. Visit the VIP parking area at Siam Paragon and you will see all sorts offancy expensive cars being dropped off or picked up by hi-so Bangkokians, many of them youngsters.
Visitors from Europe, the States and other parts of the world are usually surprised to see so many expensive cars on the roads and even more so when they learn they are much more expensive than in their own countries. That’s because the excise taxes levied on the cars are as much as 300% of the list value.
Expats who drove BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and even Maserati cars back home are likely to opt for a Toyota or Honda in Thailand. Foreigner visitors always ask where the locals get the money to buy such expensive cars. After living here for over 40 years, it’s a mystery to me. However, one hears about a ‘grey market’ that specializes in supplying luxury and sports cars for a lot less. There’s a risk of course. Failure to pay the proper taxes is technically a serious crime and could bring severe penalties. And despite assurances from the sellers there is also a chance such cars could have been stolen and shipped illegally to Thailand in a container. This could end up with the local authorities impounding the car at the very least. Therefore, it is recommended that high-end cars only be purchased from authorized importers and dealers.
Primed for promotion
“Last year we did a lot of PR and promotions, so many more people in Thailand now know what the Maserati brand is all about. We brought journalists and VIP customers, 40 people in all, to visit the Maserati headquarters in Modena, Italy and the home of the Maserati family. This year we invested a lot of time, money and effort at Bangkok International Motor Show. We had 810 square meters, which is a huge space.
“In the past some people complained that Maserati cars were hard to drive and the technology wasn’t up to the standard of some brands. No one is saying this now. From a technological aspect, Maserati has changed radically.
Maserati factories are using the most sophisticated technology available, including robotic assembly. The product comes out even better than any German car because of the Italian craftsmanship. Italians are famous when it comes to fashion and style, that’s why the leather is such good quality in a Maserati.”