Maserati to get Ferrari-powered Grand Cherokee

Posted Jan. 11 at 1:10 p.m.

Maserati will get its own SUV model next year, built on the platform of Jeep Grand Cherokee at the Chrysler Group plant in Detroit, the companies announced Tuesday.

Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Jeep parent Chrysler Group and Maserati parent Fiat, said  that the new vehicle will debut in 2012 and that it will contain an engine designed by another Fiat unit, Ferrari.

“It will be a rock and roll engine,” he said. It may come in a V-8 and a V-12 version.

Tuesday’s low-key announcement at the Detroit auto show was made during a radio interview with Marchionne and in various briefings with  reporters. There was no  statement from Chrysler or Fiat, nor was there any artwork of what the vehicle might look like.

Maserati is a high-end sports car line, known for handmade craftsmanship, powerful performance and prices in excess of $100,000.

Marchionne said Fiat had made great progress in rejuvenating the Chrysler Group’s  cars since it took control of the company during its 2009 bankruptcy, though he was blunt in his assessment of how much work still needed to be done.

“We now have a lineup we’re not ashamed of,” he said. But he conceded there are some Chrysler models that are just not attractive to consumers and can be sold only to fleet buyers like rental companies.

“To call the (Dodge)  Caliber a retail vehicle would be an abomination,” he said.

But he stressed that fleet sales declined as a percentage of Chrysler’s overall sales throughout 2010 and should decline further in 2011 as new models are introduced.

He announced that Chrysler’s target for 2011 sales would be 2 million vehicles worldwide, up from about 1.6 million in 2010. He also said Chrysler is aiming for 10 percent of the U.S. market this year, up from 9.4 percent in 2010.

Marchionne repeated earlier statements that he hoped to hold an initial public offering of company shares this year.

Most of  Chrysler’s stock is owned by a union-controlled trust fund. The Treasury Department has  9 percent in return for the federal government’s bailout of Chrysler last year. Marchionne said Tuesday said it is likely that Fiat will move to raise its stake in Chrysler Group to 51 percent from its current 25 percent before the IPO, through a combination of hitting pre-determined performance milestones and the purchase of additional shares.

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