North American Int’l Auto ShowDETROIT – Maserati SpA’s Quattroporte will feature an automatic transmission in 2007.

Sources confirm for Ward’s that the luxury sedan, whose sales have suffered slightly because it is not available with a fully automatic transmission, will offer the option next year.

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Maserati parent Fiat SpA, has said development of the transmission is well under way.(See related story: New Models Barometer for Alfa Rome’s U.S. Return)

Dealers and a spokesman for the brand say the luxury sedan, which lists for more than $100,000 from the factory, attracts many buyers for whom performance driving – for which Quattroporte’s paddle shifters were designed – is less important than refinement and driving ease.

Most prospective customers are in the U.S., Maserati believes.

The news comes as the storied Italian brand uses the North American International Auto Show here to unveil, for the first time in this market, the Quattroporte Sport GT and the Quattroporte Executive GT.

Maserati Quattroporte

The latter puts a premium on elegance and is based loosely on a limited edition Quattroporte that was sold exclusively by Neiman Marcus. The luxury department store sold its entire 60-vehicle inventory in 36 minutes.

The Executive GT, scheduled to arrive in U.S. showrooms by March, boasts ball-polished 19-in. wheels.

It also features a cabin trimmed with Alcantara suede roof lining, leather-trimmed steering wheel with wood inserts and a comfort package that offers ventilated front seats with a massage feature.

The Quattroporte Sport GT, also expected to arrive here in March, is inspired by Maserati racecars and features accoutrements, such as a carbon-fiber center console and lightweight aluminum pedals.

The Executive GT and Sport GT will retail for about $123,000 and $118,000, respectively.

Anticipated global volumes for 2006 are expected to reach 6,000 units, 1,550 of which will be sold in North America. Compared with 2005, these numbers are consistent with flat growth.

Preceding the arrival of the new Quattroporte models is the $119,000 Gransport Spyder convertible.

Maserati enjoyed a record year in the North America in 2005. Its 2,100 deliveries exceeded by 53%, the previous record total of 1,100.

emayne@primediabusiness.com