Ever since Fiat Chrysler Automobiles spun off Ferrari last year, the London-based car company has set its sights on Maserati as a source of sales growth. And on Tuesday at the Geneva Motor Show, Fiat Chrysler unveiled the latest model it hopes will revive its luxury brand: the Levante SUV.
The new vehicle, priced at anything between $72,000 and $83,000, is Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne’s most recent attempt to coax more sales out of the Maserati division. Last year the brand sold 32,500 vehicles, a tiny fraction of the 4.8 million cars Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) delivered overall, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Levante will be available in Europe in May and elsewhere in the world later this year. Its production is a year behind schedule, and the vehicle will face some fierce competition from other luxury SUVs sold by Porsche, Bentley, and Jaguar when it enters the market. It will also confront worries about the state of the global economy that could ultimately stymie luxury good sales.
Yet there’s reason for Maserati to be hopeful about its SUV bet. Sales of SUVs in the EU have grown steadily over the last decade.
A drop in oil prices has helped renew consumers’ interest in larger vehicles that tend to guzzle gas. Brent oil prices have plunged to $36 a barrel from $100 two years ago, pushing down the cost of gasoline. In 2015, SUV registrations outsold any other single vehicle segment in Europe, according to Jato, an automobile research firm.
Likewise in the U.S., trucks and SUVs have seen a new boom in popularity thanks to a recovering job market and gas prices that hovered around $2 a gallon. Sales of larger vehicles boosted overall car sales, which reached a 15-year high in 2015. The U.S. market will be vital to the Levante’s success since 40% of Maserati’s sales occur there.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to specify the range of prices for the Levante in the U.S.