Sergio Marchionne and his disciples don't seem to worry much about brand identities. After all, half of the Lancia lineup now consists of badge-engineered Chryslers, and it appears that Alfa Romeo and Maserati are next to get their feathers trimmed by the synergy-focused boss of Fiat Auto. Harald Wester is Marchionne's chief lieutenant on the product front. The German chief engineer tries to play down the Detroit connection: "The new entry Maserati is not based on the Chrysler 300C, just as the Kubang SUV is not a Grand Cherokee clone. There are no ancient or modern Mercedes parts in these vehicles, either. Every brand-relevant item will be developed from scratch. When there is a need to cooperate, it will happen internally among Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Ferrari. The designs are also new."
Putting these assertions into perspective, other sources claim that the new Quattroporte will pair an accordingly revised 300C platform with fresh brakes, steering, and suspension. Instead of the current Ferrari-sourced, normally aspirated 4.7-liter V-8, the new Quattroporte is expected to switch to a direct-injected twin-turbo 3.9-liter V-8 rated at 400 hp, 450 hp (S), and 500 hp (GTS) that will be mated to an eight-speed automatic. Due in early 2013, the Quattroporte is again a single-body-style, one-wheelbase-only effort.
A related, heavily modified, U.S.-sourced components set is expected to underpin the smaller Maserati. Priced at less than $100,000, it's also slated for 2013. To be built by Bertone at a projected rate of about 35,000 units a year, this so-called "Maseratina" is expected to outsell its bigger brother by a three-to-one margin. Like the new Quattroporte, this BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz E-class rival features a conventional drivetrain layout instead of the coveted transaxle. A full foot shorter than the Quattroporte, the Maseratina will offer turbocharged V-6 engines and possibly a diesel V-6. To pump up the production volume, this car will be paired with the repeatedly delayed Alfa Romeo 169, which switches from front- to rear-wheel drive in the process.
Maserati intends to repeat with the smaller car what it has successfully established in its full-size cars: offer a sedan, a coupe, and a convertible. Both model ranges would combine a steel structure with aluminum body panels. This material mix will reduce the curb weight of the new Quattroporte versus the outgoing model by more than 400 pounds. "We are also preparing a universally applicable plug-in-hybrid module, which promises a zero-emissions range of 20 to 35 miles," reveals Wester.
Harald Wester, 53Personality: Like Ferrari's Felisa, Wester is quiet and serious, ceding the limelight to other players within the Fiat empire. If Sergio Marchionne were your boss, you would, too.
Major career moves: After several years in the Volkswagen research department, he moved to Ingolstadt to become program engineer for the A2. From Audi, he was hired away by Ferrari, where he ran product development. Between 2002 and 2004, Wester was group president for engineering at Magna Steyr. After returning to the Fiat Group, he was eventually appointed CEO of Maserati, soon thereafter earning the same title for Abarth and then Alfa Romeo.
Biggest achievement: Made Italian luxury brands adopt German quality standards.
Claim to fame: Integrated middle-of-the-road Chrysler brands and high-end European nameplates -- but so far only on paper.