Maserati CEO Davide Grasso on the Company’s Push for Quality—and Electrification
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Maserati CEO Davide Grasso on the Company’s Push for Quality—and Electrification

By Jim Motavalli
Thu, May 4, 2023 9:27amGrey Clock 3 min

Maserati is sitting out the auto shows—at least most of them.

“The world is changing, and we made the decision about auto shows in 2019 or 2020, when the pandemic happened, and we’ve stuck with it,” CEO Davide Grasso told Penta in an interview. “No more auto shows, except Shanghai. We make an exception for Shanghai.” It helps that China now has the largest auto market in the world.

Indeed, at Shanghai on April 19, Maserati unveiled its second electric Folgore model (after the redesigned GranTurismo, which was also being introduced to China). The new entrant is the SUV Grecale Folgore. “It’s a new beginning for the brand,” Grasso said in Shanghai. “We’re celebrating Folgore, the electrification plan that has become a reality and is ready to pave the way in this revolutionary era. I’m very excited to be here in Shanghai, which is not only an international exhibition but also a global platform for innovation. It’s the ideal place to unveil the first electric models in the history of Maserati.”

Maserati’s Davide Grasso: “To succeed as a luxury brand, you have to focus on quality, not quantity.” (Maserati photo)

When it released the Grecale Folgore, Maserati said it would be built in Italy with a 105-kilowatt-hour battery and “all the true Trident performance elements.” These include more than 500 horsepower with 590 pound-feet of torque. The top speed will be over 124 miles per hour. There are now three versions of the Grecale: the GT, with a four-cylinder mild-hybrid powertrain and 300 horsepower; the Modena, with a three-litre, 530-horsepower V-6 related to the Nettuno engine in the MC20; and the Folgore, 100% electric with 400-volt technology.

Grasso saysMaserati is thriving as part of the 14-brand Stellantis, headed by hard-charging CEO Carlos Tavares—a stickler for quality.

“The quality issue is important,” Grasso says. “Carlos is a great believer in the potential of the Maserati brand. To succeed as a luxury brand, you have to focus on quality, not quantity. So we are putting a lot of effort into upgrading our processes. We took the time to ensure that the Grecale would be pristine..”

Maserati had a 24,269-vehicle global year in 2022. That was not the loftier goal set by the company in 2018, but it was quite a successful year nonetheless

The company’s full-year profits were US$221 million, nearly double of 2021“Maserati is back, doing the right things in the right way,” said Tavares in an earnings call. Unlike Tavares, Grasso did not come up through the auto industry ranks. Before Maserati, he was CEO and president at Converse, and prior to that was chief marketing officer at Nike. But shoes or cars, the core principles are basically the same, Grasso says.

“The pillars are brand marketing, customer service, residual value, and human resources. Without all these things and the right mindset, managing a luxury brand won’t work. You can have the best marketing team, but if you’re bad at servicing—if we don’t give you a loaner, if we treat you badly—it all falls apart,” he says.

Grasso also says he was happy with the electric versions of the GT and Grecale.

“The electric GT is heavier, but the cars are still very responsive, with 2.7 seconds to 60 mph and 760 horsepower on tap,” he says. “We are in full execution of our electrification strategy now, and we’re excited by the level of performance. We will have an electric Quattroporte in early 2025 on a brand-new platform, redesigned from the inside-out. Then the new Levante. We will be only electric by 2030. The plans are coming together, so it might even be earlier than that.”

Although SUVs dominate today, Grasso sticks up for the sedans and two-seat sports cars (the MC20) in Maserati’s lineup.

“It’s never all SUVs,” he says. “There’s the comfort of a sedan versus the off-road capability of an SUV. Maserati was born on the track, so we combine speed and luxury. Many of our owners have multi-car garages, so they can own different types of vehicles.”

Maserati has been aggressive in establishing its U.S. dealer network, and now has more than 100 outlets. “We are right-sizing it, and there are some locations where we don’t need to be,” he says. “We have to be where the customers are. And going forward, the stand-alone dealership is the model. We have to make sure that the dealerships are aligned with our core values, treating the customers with courtesy and streamlining the buying procedure. But we don’t want to woo people with bells and whistles if it’s not matched with excellence in the rest of the operation.”


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Only 5% of U.S. Foundations Invest for Impact, Study Finds
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Few of the U.S.’s philanthropic foundations invest their endowment assets—totalling an estimated US$1.1 trillion—to create positive social and environmental change in addition to high returns, potentially limiting or even counteracting the good such organisations do.

Exactly how few isn’t precisely known. But Bridgespan Social Impact, a subsidiary of the New York-based Bridgespan Group along with the Capricorn Investment Group, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based investment firm founded by Jeff Skoll , the first president of eBay, and the Skoll Foundation, also in Palo Alto, attempted to “get the conservation started,” with a study of 65 foundations with a total of about US$89 billion in assets, according to Mandira Reddy, director at Capricorn Investment Group.

The top-line conclusion: 5% of the primarily U.S.-based foundations surveyed invest their assets for impact. Most surprising is that 92% of these organisations, which have assets ranging from US$11 million to US$16 billion, are active members of impact investing groups, such as the Global Impact Investing Network and Mission Investors Exchange.

“If there’s any pool of capital that is best suited for impact investing, it would be this pool of capital along with family office money,” Reddy says.

The study was also conducted “to draw attention to the opportunity,” she said.

“We want to redefine what philanthropy can achieve. There is massive potential here just given the scale of capital.”

Foundations are required by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to grant 5% of their assets each year to charity; in practice they have granted slightly more in the last 10 years—an average of 7% of their assets, according to Delaware-based FoundationMark, which tracks the investment performance of about 97% of all foundation assets.

The remaining assets of these foundations are invested with the intention of earning the “highest-possible risk-adjusted financial returns,” the report said. Those investments allow these organizations to grant funds often in perpetuity.

Capricorn and Bridgespan argue that more foundations, however, need to “align their capital with their missions,” and that they can do so while still achieving high returns.

“Why wait to distribute resources far into the future when there are numerous urgent issues facing the planet and communities today,” argue the authors of a report on the research, which is titled, “Can Foundation Endowments Achieve Greater Impact.”

The fact most of the foundations surveyed are very familiar with impact investing and yet haven’t taken the leap “highlights the persistently untapped opportunity,” the report said. It details some of the barriers foundations can face in shifting to impact, and how and why to overcome them.

Hurdles to making a shift can include “beginner’s dilemma”—simply not knowing where to start—and a misperception on the part of large foundations that impact investing is “too niche,” offering opportunities that are too small for the amount of capital they need to allocate. Other foundations are too stretched and don’t have the resources to add capabilities for making impact investments, the report said.

One of the biggest concerns is financial performance. Some foundation leaders, for instance, worry impact investments lead to so-called concessionary returns, where a market rate of return is sacrificed to achieve a social or environmental benefit. Those investments exist, but there are also plenty of options that offer financial returns.

The authors make a case for foundations to “go big,” into impact to realize the best outcomes, and to take a portfolio approach, meaning integrating impact principles into how they approach all investments. To make this happen, foundations need to incorporate impact into their investment policy statements, which determine how they allocate assets.

It will be difficult for foundations that want to shift their assets to impact to pull out of investments such as private-equity or venture-capital funds that can have holdings periods of a decade. But with a policy statement in place, a foundation’s investment team can reinvest this long-term capital once it is returned into impact investing options, she says.

“The transition doesn’t happen overnight,” Reddy says. “Even if there is a commitment for an established foundation that is already fully invested, it takes several years to get there.”

The Skoll Foundation, established in 1999, revised its investment policy statement in 2006 to incorporate impact. According to the report, the foundation initially divested of investments that were not in sync with its values, and then gradually, working with Capricorn Investment, began exploring impact opportunities mostly in early-stage companies developing solutions to climate change.

“As the team gained more knowledge and experience in this work, and as more investment opportunities arose, the impact-aligned portfolio expanded across different asset classes, issue areas, and fund managers,” the report said.

As of 2022, 70% of the Skoll Foundation’s assets are in impact investments addressing climate change, inclusive capitalism, health and wellness, and sustainable markets.

Capricorn, which manages US$9 billion for foundations and institutional investors through impact investments, constructs portfolios across asset classes. In private markets, this can include venture, private equity, private credit, real estate, and infrastructure. There are also impact options in the public markets, in both stocks and bonds.

“Across the spectrum there are opportunities available now to do this in an authentic manner while preserving financial goals,” Reddy says.

Of the foundations surveyed, about 15, including Skoll, have 50% or more of their assets invested for impact. Others include the Lora & Martin Kelley Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Russell Family Foundation, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

Though not part of the study, the California Endowment just announced it was going “all in” on impact. The organisation has US$4 billion in assets under management, which likely makes it the largest foundation to undergo the shift, according to Mission Investors Exchange.

Although the researchers looked at a fairly small sample set of foundations, Reddy says it provides data “that is indicative of what the foundation universe” might look like.

“We cannot tell foundations how to invest and that’s not the intent, but we do want to spread the message that it is quite possible to align their assets to impact,” she says. “The idea is that this becomes a boardroom conversation.”


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