Maserati’s brand-building mission starts at the shops

Published: 14 October 2021

 Maserati opens installation at Situ Live
 A dedicated space in Westfield London
 ‘Storytellers’ to build brand awareness

A bright blue Maserati MC20 supercar basks in the spotlights in the Westfield London shopping centre. It has pride of place in the window at Situ Live, a new dedicated space launched earlier in October 2021 that aims to offer brands a new way to promote themselves.  

Maserati is the first automotive brand to sign with Situ Live, and CAR spoke with Maserati’s general manager for North Europe, Peter Charters, to find out why.

What is Situ Live?

The Situ Live space is a sizeable, glass-fronted space on the first floor of Westfield’s Shepherd’s Bush shopping centre. Inside, it’s divided into numerous sections, including a kitchen area (homeware, coffee making, cookery demonstrations), a lounge area showing off furnishings and connected hubs, a home working area (with daily talks on posture and productivity), a play area for children’s products, and a virtual reality studio, for example. The ‘On the Move’ area is where Maserati’s space resides, alongside e-bikes and e-scooters. 

Other brands at Situ Live include Bosch, Oculus and Lenovo, for example. Maserati is the only automotive brand currently installed, initially for around a year, potentially for much longer depending on whether it considers it a return on investment.

Maserati at Situ Live launch 2021

It’s not a typical marketing approach for an automotive marque – why is Maserati here? 

‘Westfield had a pre-pandemic annual footfall of 29 million people,’ Charters explains. ‘Compared with a conventional dealership, you’d be lucky a thousand. Brand awareness has never been a strong point for us. Now we have a new story to tell, I think 29 million people is not a bad starting point to tell it to.’

That new story refers to an unprecedented product launch plan, starting with the imminent arrival of the MC20 flagship in the UK and moving on to the Grecale mid-sized SUV and all-new GranTurismo next year, available as a pure EV as well as a combustion-engined model. The staff at Situ Live are not salespeople but ‘storytellers’ – many of which are people with an acting or presenting background, trained to chat with consumers about the brands and products on show. One at Situ Live’s launch even composed poetry to perform. ‘There’s no pressure on them to make sales ‘because it’s not a sales environment,’ Charters says. (Although if visitors scan a QR code next to an item on show, such as an e-bike for example, it takes them to a link to the manufacturer’s website to purchase it.) 

‘Nobody’s a car salesman here –they’re people with an outgoing personality and enthusiasm to learn,’ he adds. ‘You’re getting a different experience just because of that.’

Not a replacement for dealerships

Charters stresses that joining Situ Live isn’t part of a plan to move away from the conventional model of a dealership network, as per brands such as Genesis, which has launched without showrooms for a ‘direct-to-consumer’ approach. ‘The dealer network is still core to what we do. Every lead we get from here goes straight to the dealer network. But this opens up a lot more opportunity for people to see the car, and give people a first taste – which might be just enough to persuade them to go to a showroom. 

‘Some people might not be familiar with Maserati and want a two-minute brand background explainer, others might want an in-depth 30-minute conversation. We’ve trained up five people fully, to do that, and others with more top-line information to share the brand, the culture. Once word gets out about here, I can see people who normally are driving another car brand might stop by, take a look.’ 

Maserati’s upcoming product plans

Maserati’s biggest new product launch will be the Grecale mid-sized SUV, scheduled to be revealed before the end of this year and on sale in 2022. ‘It’s a massive opportunity; bigger than any of the segments we’ve previously been involved with, with a broader church of customers, including more female buyers.’

Expect to the MC20 at Situ Live to swap places with a Grecale in due course.

Maserati expects UK registrations to double next year with Grecale – although sales are currently in the hundreds rather than the thousands. They’ve been given a 22% lift in 2021 by the introduction of mild hybrids to the Ghibli and Levante ranges. 

From mild hybrids, Maserati is jumping straight to full electric models – ‘arguably we’ve been a little later in starting, but earlier in finishing,’ Charters says – with an all-electric version of MC20 waiting in the wings and an all-new, all-electric GranTurismo launching next year.

Maserati MC20 at Situ Live 2021

Maserati will operate something of a split strategy however, with an internal combustion GranTurismo following closely after the electric model. The same strategy is expected with the convertible GranCabrio and the replacement Quattroporte model due further down the line. An electric Grecale is expected too. 

‘We will always have a signature Maserati sound even with electric,’ Charters says. ‘The CEO was down in the lab as early as possible, listening to the sounds to make sure they’re on the right track. We realise Maserati can never be a commodity; it’s a brand, it’s a lifestyle.’

The MC20 will be joined by an open-air Spider version in 2022, with an all-electric version not far behind.

Situ Live approached Maserati two years ago to come on board, before the venue’s launch was delayed by the pandemic. Looking at the interest the MC20 is garnering from passers-by, you sense having a bright-blue supercar in Situ Live’s window can’t be doing this new enterprise any harm either. 

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, occasional racer