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Maserati raising its game in U.S., may be joined by Alfa Romeo
Maserati, the exotic Italian car manufacturer, has ambitious plans for the future, which may well entail linking up with its fellow countryman Alfa Romeo in the U.S. to boost sports car sales there.

Maserati, owned by Italian mass car maker Fiat which itself recently emerged from a messy divorce from General Motors Corp., is lucky to be alive.

It has been a serial loss maker and last year notched up its 17th year in a row of red ink. That is set to end in 2007.

"Maserati will finally return to profitability in 2007, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne told financial analysts after announcing its results for 2006.

Maserati dealers in the U.S. are expected to begin selling Alfa Romeos in a couple of years.

Alfa Romeo, also owned by Fiat, withdrew from the U.S. market in 1995, and seems to have been gearing up for a return ever since. The Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, a limited edition sports car which was shown as a concept at the Paris Car Show in 2006, is likely to be the scout at the head of the column, perhaps in 2008. This $200,000 supercar has a 450 bhp 4.7 liter V-8 engine and rear wheel drive.

Alfa 159 and Brera

"Maserati dealers in the U.S. would welcome the idea and it would make sense for Alfa. We forecast them entering the U.S. in 2009, after the Competizione has tested the waters. This makes sense because I can't see new dealers wanting to sell just Alfas, and we expect sales of about 8,000 by 2015, mainly of the 159 (sedan) and Brera (coupe)," said Madeira.

All these carefully laid plans for Maserati's expansion may be seriously damaged if European Union (E.U.) politicians decree rules on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions which are unforgiving on upmarket gas guzzlers like the Quattroporte and its ilk.

The E.U. and the European Car Manufacturers Association have a voluntary agreement to limit the average output of cars to 140 grammes per kilometer (g/km) by 2008, the equivalent of about 39 miles per U.S. gallon. The EU has now decided that this will be cut to 130 g/km by 2012. When you consider that the Quattroporte only manages 16 miles per U.S. gallon, equivalent to 345 g/km, you can see the scale of potential problem.

Unlike the Mercedes, BMW and Audi competition, Maserati has no fuel sipping diesel engines, or hybrid plans. The Germans are expected to join Japan's Lexus soon by providing petrol/electric hybrid engines in their top-of-the-range cars.

But the E.U has so far not announced how new consumption standards will be enforced. It may allow manufacturers to average fuel consumption across all of the brands, in which case Maserati's handful of fuel munchers could be added to Fiat's millions of fuel-sipping mini cars.

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