Maserati has just posted a quarterly trading profit for the first time in the 17 years that the Bologna-based sports car maker has been under full Fiat control. This morning Fiat Group reported that Maserati made a 1 million euro trading profit (before any one-off charges are included) during the second quarter of 2007 compared to a 7 million euro it posted loss during the same period last year.

During the last few years huge losses at Maserati have been successfully stemmed: from a 168 million euros deficit in 2004, to 85 million euros in 2005 and 33 million euros last year. Now Maserati expects to report further positive financial results this year, with the return to the black being driven in particular by demand for the new automatic version of the Quattroporte, especially in the United States where Trident deliveries have hit record numbers this year. “This year, Maserati will definitely be in the black for the full year,” Maserati Sales Director Raffaele Fusilli told Automotive News Europe this morning. Both the Maserati CEO Roberto Ronchi and the Fiat Group Chairman Luca di Montezemolo have recently been predicting a return to the black during 2007.

Founded in Bologna in 1914, Fiat took up a 49 percent stake in Maserati in 1989, before completing the purchase shortly afterwards when it took up full 100 percent ownership. Responsibility for Maserati was quickly handed to the Ferrari sports car division and the first car to be launched under Fiat ownership, the 3200GT, was revealed in 1998. Using a 370 bhp 3.2-litre V8 with twin-turbos it could dash from standstill to 100 km/h five seconds. Four years later a new Coupé - which retained the outer shape but was almost entirely new under the skin - was launched, along with a convertible 'Spyder' version. Both these models featured an all-new Maranello-designed 4.2-litre V8 unit, as well as the option of a 'paddle-shift' Cambiocorsa transmission.

In the meantime Ferrari had invested massively in the ageing Modena factory to bring it up to modern low-volume standards and had been busy dividing up its dealerships around the globe to house Maserati. A brand-new Quattroporte (4-door) sedan designed by Pininfarina was launched at the Frankfurt IAA in September 2003 to widespread acclaim. As the Coupé and Spyder neared the end of their lives more extreme versions with aggressive styling touches were launched, firstly the GranSport (Coupé) and then the GranSport Spyder. However the profits were still some way off.


At the beginning of this year Maserati addressed the Quattroporte's omission: an automatic version, launching this slick option at the Detroit Motor Show in January.


The long-awaited launch of the replacement for the long-running Coupé took place in March: the Pininfarina-designed GranTurismo (seen here at the Goodwod Festival of Speed last month) debuting in Geneva, and raising the bar further.

In early 2005 during a major restructuring of Fiat Auto's operations by the ambitious new CEO Sergio Marchionne following the dissolution of the agreement between the Turin carmaker and US carmaker General Motors, Maserati was removed from Ferrari's responsibility and returned to the Fiat Auto fold. Ferrari had been struggling to continue to fund the major investments required to return the Trident brand to full health. Meanwhile, Maserati's CEOs came and went, including major names such as English former Ford Europe boss Martin Leach and the German Rolls-Royce and then Alfa Romeo division chief, Karl-Heinz Kalbfell. Marchionne set Maserati a sales target of 10,000, a tough target, but models sales held steady during rounds of required cost-cutting.

At the same time Maserati was making a highly successful return to the race tracks with its awesome MC12 sportscar, which was also sold in 'Stradale' form in limited numbers (required for race homologation). The MC12 has over the last two years impressively won the Drivers', Teams' and Manufacturers' titles in the international FIA GT Championship as well as taking two wins in the 24 Hours of Spa. The MC12 also appeared in the American Le Mans Series in 2005, and a successful 'one make' series for 'gentleman' drivers using Coupé based racers was wrapped up at the end of last year in Eurpe.

At the beginning of this year Maserati addressed the Quattroporte's omission: an automatic version, launching this slick option at the Detroit Motor Show in January. The automatic is expected to account for the majority of the sedan's global sales this year. The second important event of 2007 so far was the eagerly-awaited launch of the replacement for the long-running Coupé family: the Pininfarina-designed GranTurismo debuting at the Geneva Motor Show in March, and raising the bar further. Very well received the 4.2-itre V8 engine car with auto transmission will arrive in the showrooms later this year, providing a timely and significant boost to Trident revenues.

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