The Frontrunner: Maserati's Umberto Maria Cini On Catering to Car Connoisseurs
2014 was an especially important year for Maserati- besides marking the 100th anniversary of the Trident brand, the year also saw the company mark its best sales year on record, with approximately 36,500 of its luxury cars finding buyers around the world. With respect to the Middle East and Africa (MEA) specifically, Maserati reported a 155% increase in its 2014 sales when compared to its figures from last year- a growth that can be attributed largely to the launch of the brand’s first four-door sports executive sedan, the Ghibli, which accounted for just over half of its retail sales in the region.
But even as the company celebrates the growth of its business in the last year, and also sets for itself a new goal to sell 75,000 cars per annum by 2018, Umberto Cini, Managing Director, Maserati General Overseas Market, notes that Maserati will continue to remain a very niche brand. “One of the reasons why Maserati has continued to appeal to the audiences is, on one hand, the high level of exclusivity that owning a Maserati offers,” Cini says. “But more importantly, Maserati uniquely stands for Italian design, the GranTurismo driving experience, exclusivity and craftsmanship. That is how we started 100 years ago when we started making race cars, and that’s who we still are today.”
With principles like these governing the company, the Maserati brand has been able to find a rather loyal following here in the Arab world. “The Middle East is a very important market for us, due to the fact that it has a high density of true car aficionados, who appreciate owning an exclusive car such as a Maserati,” Cini explains. “Generally speaking, our customers consider themselves true car connoisseurs that appreciate the distinctiveness, exclusiveness and prestige that comes with owning a Maserati. They tend to be affluent, predominantly male and mature in age across all nationalities and cultural backgrounds, although in the Middle East, age seems to play a less significant role. With launch of the Ghibli in 2014, our target demographic has widened somewhat, reaching slightly younger clients, clients aiming to own their first Maserati, as well as a larger share of female customers.”
Given that Maserati, as a brand, largely speaks for itself, Cini admits that the company hasn’t had to work so hard on its marketing techniques to reel in customers. “As a luxury niche brand we have been relatively conservative in terms of communications,” he says. “But with the launch of the Ghibli, which targets a new client segment, we have become more active particularly in terms of advertising, events, interaction with the press and so on. While we receive some of our communications material from our headquarters in Italy, we also produce campaigns specifically for the Middle East and even for specific countries. These include advertising layouts, radio campaigns and so on.”
Word-of-mouth recommendations are another way customers are directed towards Maserati. “Client referrals are extremely important, particularly for a luxury brand, and in this region,” Cini says. “We even find that we receive referrals from luxury brands of other sectors such as from the jewelry industry, luxury hotels or fashion. Maserati owners are part of a very exclusive group, and members are extremely well connected amongst each other and share their product experiences.” In a region that revels in personalized services, automotives too must try their best to accommodate even the most unusual. One Maserati customer bespoke wish that Cini finds particularly memorable came from a Saudi Arabian customer “who requested a solid gold nameplate to be incorporated into the dashboard. The factory was able to accommodate the request.”
Cini also notes that Maserati customers are also often keen to buy again from the brand after their first purchase. “Our research across several markets shows that the vast majority of Maserati owners will once again consider a Maserati for their next vehicle purchase,” he reveals. “That said, Maseratis become collectible as they age and are often retained by their owners for many years. We would like to think that ‘once a Maserati driver, always a Maserati driver,’ but of course, we need to continue to deliver the ownership experience associated with the brand, including very high standards of after-sales service and engagement with our customers through various events and communication activities.”
Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.
Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.