Maserati CEO Davide Grasso explains how the Italian luxury car brand is seeking to ensure its electric vehicles are just as fun to drive as those with combustion engines in a conversation with Dezeen.
Speaking at a roundtable event in London, Grasso responded to a question from Dezeen about the common perception that electric cars are boring compared to combustion engine cars.
“It’s about driving experience, who says they have to be dull?” he said.
“If the majority of the electric cars are dull – I’m not saying that, but it’s what I’m hearing from you – then this is an opportunity for us.”
“We don’t sell engines, we sell luxury driving experiences”
Grasso claimed that Maserati, which just unveiled its first fully electric vehicle at Milan design week, believes that its electric cars will have just as much charisma as the petrol-powered sports cars that made the marque its name.
He argued that although the combustion engine was a key component of past models, the joy of driving could still be retained when replacing it with an electric drivetrain.
“We don’t sell engines, we sell luxury driving experiences,” said Grasso, who became CEO of the brand in 2019.
“If you take out one piece of the puzzle which is much appreciated, you have to make sure you replace it with something that is at that level, if not superior.”
“Our goal is to provide the same benchmark level experience using a state-of-the-art system of electric motors versus a state-of-the-art combustion engine,” he continued.
“We need to take the Maserati DNA into the future”
Maserati aims to replicate the feeling of driving its combustion-engine sports cars in electric versions through strategic positioning of the motors, Grasso explained.
“‘What makes a Maserati special’ is the first question that we asked ourselves – and how do we put in an engine which is different from what we used to have?” he said.
“Maserati cars have a unique type of drivability due to the fact that they have a long nose as the non-electric engine used to be on the axis, and that gives it a completely different handling than any other car,” he continued.
“To keep the drivability of it you change the way you put batteries compared to what anybody else does – everybody else puts it towards the bottom, we put it in a T, because that keeps the central gravity low. Everybody’s got one engine or two engines, we have three, because we have engines on both the rear wheels.”
Grasso believes that these changes will mean Maserati’s electric cars retain the distinct feeling of its previous cars.
“These are all things that have to be consistent, because we need to take the Maserati DNA into the future, respecting the brand,” he explained.
“It’s the same driving experience… but if you go and X-ray the cars they are really different.”
Maserati has also focused on creating a sound for their electric vehicles intended to reflect the brand’s ethos. Developed over 18 months, the sound is based on the noise generated by the electric motors.
“An electric car, just because it doesn’t make much noise, doesn’t mean that it is dull,” he said.
“It took us 18 months to develop the sound, because the sound is an essential element of the driving experience. And the sound for the electric engine is very different.”
Tipping point for electrification “is behind us”
Maserati’s GranTurismo Folgore, which will go on sale this summer, is the brand’s first fully-electric vehicle created as part of its plan to transition to only offering electric cars by 2030.
However, Grasso believes that due to the rapid speed of electric adoption, the manufacturer may phase out combustion engine cars before its self-imposed deadline.
“The speed of the movement towards electrification is increasing – the tipping point is behind us,” he said.
“So the horizon that we have towards 2030, to be fully electric for Maserati, may happen a little earlier.”
Although Maserati currently plans to build internal combustion engine (ICE) versions of its sports cars for the next seven years, Grasso said the brand was committed to electric.
He described these remaining fossil-fuel vehicles as a “last dance”, suggesting that people still committed to combustion engines were “dinosaurs”.
“It’s moving and accelerating, but right now we’re giving people freedom to choose and to stay with the ICE, knowing that the ICE will be a celebratory moment of the last dance,” he said.
“I remember, because I worked with with Apple at that time, there were names to identify those in 2010 or ’11 holding onto their Blackberry – you know, they were calling them the dinosaurs.”
Maserati is among a group of brands including Bentley, Buick, Fiat, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz that are set to be all-electric by 2030.
Other brands to recently unveil their first electric cars include Rolls-Royce and Sony, which revealed a “moving entertainment space”.
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