Maserati cars evoke a strong emotional reaction from customers, says Marti Eulberg, CEO of Maserati North America, who has some quasi-scientific evidence to support her contention.
With previous management posts at BMW, Volvo and Jaguar, Eulberg, 44, knows U.S. luxury buyers. She has been head of Maserati's North American unit since June.
Maserati cites a study by British insurance company Hiscox on the reaction of men and women to the sound of car engines being revved. The saliva of 20 men and 20 women, ranging in age from 22 to 61, was tested before and after they listened to a Lamborghini, a Maserati, and a Ferrari, as well as the Volkswagen Polo subcompact.
"One hundred percent of the women showed a significant hormonal increase," when listening to the Maserati, Eulberg says.
Science? Maybe not. But you get the point.
And it isn't just the noise a Maserati makes. "The difference in Maserati styling and performance — the package you are able to give that customer — it evokes a reaction," Eulberg says.
At least, that's the goal. Eulberg says that the ability to stand out at the country club, the big-bucks restaurant or the posh hotel is a major reason Maserati is holding its own in a tough environment. Maserati's 2008 U.S. sales were down just 1.2 percent from 2007 (see box at right).
With just two cars, both over $120,000 — the Gran Turismo coupe and the Quattroporte sedan — Maserati sales rose from 853 units in 2002 to 2,509 last year.
Eulberg expected a flat 2008, a consequence of the economic meltdown and lack of consumer confidence. Despite the sales, Maserati expected to make a profit in the United States last year, she says.
The prediction for this year isn't as gloomy as that of a volume or near-luxury maker. Eulberg expects 2009 sales "to be about even."