TURIN – The platform-sharing agreement recently announced at the Frankfurt auto show between Audi AG and Maserati SpA is raising some questions about its true intent.

Audi is interested in Maserati Quattroporte platform and front-engine, rear-wheel-drive chassis.

The tentative deal made by Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, chairman of the Ferrari and Maserati group, and Bernd Pischetsrieder, CEO of Volkswagen AG, includes cooperation on technical and commercial projects. (See related story: Audi-Maserati Technical Tie-up Could Yield Rear-Drive Sedan)

The parties intend to jointly develop and manufacture vehicles using modules from Maserati and Audi models. The cooperation also encompasses the supply and purchasing of various components for specific projects and the existing product range.

VW Bank will offer financial services to Maserati dealers under the same conditions granted to Audi and VW dealers. In addition, Audi will allow some 50 dealers worldwide to add a Maserati franchise to their Audi franchise. In a similar move, select Maserati dealers will be allowed to sell Audis.

On the technical side, Audi is interested into the Maserati Quattroporte’s platform and its front-engine, rear-wheel-drive chassis. “We want to maximize the differentiation between our brands," says Pischetsrieder. “We have front drive and 4-wheel drive but no front-engine, rear-drive models. This could help us find the right product.”

Montezemolo says the deal is good for both auto makers. “Audi is interested in sharing Maserati’s Quattroporte platform, and for our future SUV, we need 4-wheel drive as well as powerful diesel engines.”

It’s clear Maserati would share Audi’s know-how in all-wheel drive for the Kubang cross/utility vehicle presented as a concept at the Detroit auto show in January, but the technology also may be used on other Maseratis in the medium term.

The big question remains whether the deal will lead to a takeover by VW of Maserati or the entire Ferrari/Maserati group. Says Pischetsrieder: "This is a technical cooperation and not a particularly good reason for becoming a shareholder."

But the respected German magazine Der Spiegel says VW would be interested in buying a controlling stake in Ferrari SpA should Fiat Auto SpA be forced to sell. VW denies the report.

Among those watching the development is Germany’s Commerzbank, which holds a 10% share in Ferrari. Managing Director Klaus-Peter Mueller says, contrary to earlier plans, Ferrari shares will not be floated on the market this year, but likely will be next year.