Francesco Tonon, Head of Product Planning at Maserati on producing luxury cars that will help to save our planet.
Francesco Tonon - Maserati Head of Product Planning
The automotive industry is one of the key sectors that is crucial when it comes to building a better future and sustaining our planet. It’s commonly known that traditional cars play a huge role in contributing to climate change and more work needs to be done to limit the greenhouse gases produced by car engines before the contribution to global warming becomes irreversible. When electric cars were first on the market they came with the taboo of being uncool and ugly, but things have come a long way since then. Many luxury car manufacturers have begun to question how they can build cars for a better future, and one of the answers is to create electric “hybrid” engines.
Italian car manufacturer Maserati has recently embarked on a journey into the world of hybrid cars. The new Maserati Ghibli Hybrid combines luxury, excellence and performance with the car manufacturer’s first-ever eco-friendly design. This unique design is one of the most ambitious projects taken on by Maserati yet and is the beginning of the future of the car manufacturer with a direction of greener consumption, without compromising on quality or design. The hybrid technology uses the kinetic energy that the car uses when in motion and transforms it into electricity that is stored in the battery and used to run the engine. This reduces fuel consumption, improves performance and cuts harmful emissions. We find out more about this care and the future of sustainability at Maserati with Francesco Tonon, Head of Product Planning at Maserati.
The Ghibli Hybrid is a milestone launch for Maserati – how long has this car been in the works and tell us a little about the initial idea?
The launch of the Ghibli Hybrid is a milestone for Maserati because we are entering a new era. We are writing a new book and the Ghibli Hybrid represents the first chapter as it is the first hybrid model by Maserati. Ghibli Hybrid is the link between a past of internal combustion engines and an electric future. When we started thinking about this project, at the beginning of 2018, the goal was to create a car that was able to deliver efficiency and at the same time, enhance the performance. With the Mild Hybrid system, we can offer to our consumer the best skills, options and values of two engines. The performance and the smooth response of a 6-cylinder petrol engine and the low emission and consumptions of a 6-cylinder diesel engine.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced with this car?
This is a historical moment because for the very first time, we are producing a Maserati equipped with a hybrid engine. It’s truly an exciting time because we’re on the verge of a new era. The challenge is combining the brand’s traditional values with the electrification project. That’s why we need to find a balance in meeting the market’s demands that push toward green mobility and at the same time, we do not want to forget the traditional Maserati DNA.
Why did you decide on the Ghibli model for the hybrid engine?
We decided to apply this technology on Ghibli because it perfectly embodies Maserati’s DNA. Maserati has a long history with sedans dating back to the 60s. Maserati invented the high-performance sedan in 1963 by fitting a race car engine in a sedan – the Quattroporte. The current Ghibli is a very successful model produced in over 100,000 units since its presentation in 2013. Consequently, we believed Ghibli would be the ideal Maserati model to be equipped with our new hybrid unit.
What were the challenges in ensuring the Maserati sound was still present even with this engine?
The Ghibli Hybrid is a Maserati in every respect, the signature sound is completely authentic. It is achieved without resorting to amplifiers, but by just tweaking the fluid dynamics of the exhausts and adopting resonators, tuned to deliver the typical roar. Anyone on board a Maserati hybrid must still hear the unmistakable sound of a Maserati engine.
Who is the person this car is designed for?
In terms of demographics, the younger generations have been the early adopters when it comes to electrification and sustainability. However, this situation is changing as these values are becoming important among different generations of consumers. Considering that our hybrid solution provides enhanced performances as well as efficiency, this is a combination of assets that is desirable for a very wide range of consumers.
How does the Maserati Hybrid differ from those on the market?
The Maserati 48 volt hybrid system has four parts: BSG, battery, eBooster and a DC/DC converter. The BSG and eBooster combination is unique in the hybrid sedan segment and provides an extra boost when the engine reaches peak rpm in sport mode, at which point the performance benefits can be fully enjoyed, while in normal mode it balances fuel use and performance.
Tell us about the blue colour – why did you decide on this colour to identify the hybrid cars?
The blue colour is universally adopted as the symbol of clean mobility. The Ghibli features several details in blue: the three traditional air ducts on the front mudguard have a blue trim, the Brembo brake callipers and the thunderbolt in the pillar logo are in the same colour.
How do you ensure that you continue to keep the Maserati spirit and DNA with an electric motor car?
The Hybrid system is the best solution we could have adopted because it combines the best features of the two previous power plants, offering the driver a car that is fun to drive, with the genuine Maserati sound. It squares the circle by delivering the smooth response of a 6 cylinder engine with the low-rpm torque of a diesel. The outcome achieved is almost perfect: even greater performance, with less fuel use (100 km/hour in 5.7 seconds and delivers a top speed of 255 km/h).
How do you ensure that long-term clients will be interested in the Ghibli Hybrid and at the same time appeal to new potential customers?
By staying true to our DNA. Our everyday aim is to infuse our pride and dedication to people who love excellence. Choosing a Maserati is never done by chance, but instead, it is an act of deep passion and knowledge. Innovation, audacity and uniqueness guide the brand in this phase of total renewal. It’s not about offering a huge number of models, it’s about offering the right ones. This is the secret to ensuring the commitment of our long-term clients and at the same time appealing to new potential customers: never forget the past; start from the roots to create our future. It’s about staying true to Maserati’s soul.
Of course one of the challenges today is sustainability which of course is very important to the brand – can you tell us a little about some of the ways you are tackling sustainable alternatives and practices?
The Ghibli Hybrid aims to enhance performance while saving fuel. It represents the Maserati approach to hybrid propulsion, an approach in keeping with our DNA. The Ghibli Hybrid takes Maserati into the future without betraying the past. In a way, it even further highlights the keynote features of every Maserati: exceptional performance and luxury. The first hybrid engine in the history of the marque, where innovation and technology have always met with high-performance automotive engineering, to drive Maserati forward towards a more sustainable future. Faster than diesel, greener than gasoline: that is the Ghibli Hybrid philosophy in a nutshell.
Earlier this year you announced that you would cease production of V8 engines for you GranTurismo – what does this significant move mean for the brand and the future?
As we have recently declared, all-new Maserati models will be 100% developed, engineered and built in Italy, and will adopt electric solutions (hybrid and/or 100% electric) delivering all the innovation and outstanding performance typical of the Brand’s DNA. GranTurismo and GranCabrio remain part of the Brand’s roots and the new versions heralding the age of full electrification for Maserati, constituting the first models to boast 100% electrical systems.
This issue of a&e talks about the future – in your opinion what is the future of luxury cars?
Luxury is not just about expensive and outstanding things; it’s not the coolest bag or the fastest car. Luxury is being able to do what you want when you want; it’s freedom of expression; it’s desire. For sure, the consumer who buys an electric car is interested in sustainability and in the environment, but he’s also attracted in the innovation and the ability to constantly innovate. Innovation doesn’t mean twisting, we have to respect the heritage of the brand and securing its timelessness. In the automotive industry, Innovation is the constant improvement of performance and technology, it’s a matter of anticipating customer’s wishes. Creating and satisfying desires is important to sustaining luxury.
How do you continue to combine tradition and innovation with sustainability at Maserati without compromising on quality or performance?
The choice of the Mild Hybrid technology used for the Ghibli is a clear sign the Maserati wants to re-establish the historical performance DNA, embracing ate the same time the future with the hybrid. We are offering the new Hybrid for the best experience driving with a combustion engine: our concept offers high performance combined with fuel economy. From a customer point of view this Hybrid should like a “new performance Diesel” – and CO2 like the V6 Diesel, power, performance and like V6 Gasoline (e.g. CO2 & Taxation Reduction Lower CO2 Emissions vs V6 Diesel and ~ -25% emissions vs. V6 350 gasoline)
What can you tell us about Maserati in the Middle East?
The Middle East is an important region for Maserati and we have been present there, with our partners for over 50 years, boasting among the most beautiful showrooms in the world. We have a strong base of clients that, unlike other regions, has an exceptionally high and growing number of young and female clients who truly appreciate exclusivity and unique craftsmanship. We are looking forward to strengthening our offer to our customers in the region by demonstrating how a luxury and performance brand like Maserati can lead the way to satisfy numerous market trends like electrification and contactless interaction, while at the same time remaining true to its DNA of high performance and beautiful Italian design. The first steps of this journey are already at our doorstep with the arrival in the Middle East of the Ghibli Hybrid, Trofeo Collection and soon the highly anticipated super sports car MC20.