Maserati North America says it will require dealers to boost their service staffs in the coming months in preparation for the launch of the '05 Quattroporte sedan.

Deliveries of the Quattroporte are expected to begin in September. Maserati plans to begin training service technicians in May and dealer general managers and sales staffs in April.

“In April, we have a week (of training) in New York. All of our dealer managers and general managers will come, they will drive the cars and they will learn about the changes to our gearbox,” Adam Rowley, dealership operations manager for Ferrari Maserati North America, tells Ward's.

Maserati plans to concentrate most of its training on Quattroporte's DuoSelect transmission because of its unique features. The transmission is modeled after the Cambiocorsa used in the Spyder and Coupe models, although the programming has been changing to make gear changes smoother.

The auto maker believes this new system will require dealer sales staff to spend more time with customers to familiarize them with the system.

“We're going to ask them to go to the customer's home and spend time with them, if that's what it takes,” Rowley says.

Maserati also is asking dealers to boost their service staffs, as the Quattroporte will mark a significant increase in volumes for the auto maker from its current two model lineup. Because most Maserati dealers also own a Ferrari franchise — Ferrari SpA owns the Maserati brand — Rowley wants Ferrari technicians to be cross-trained on Maserati vehicles.

“Around 60 technicians will need to come in,” he says. “We've got about 120 technicians in the system that have been trained in Ferrari and some of them with Maserati. We're going to get more and more cross training done.

“If you've got a showroom with Maserati and Ferrari, and you've got four Ferrari technicians and your Maserati specialist, eventually all five are going to be Ferrari and Maserati specialist technicians.”

Rowley says dealers must recruit technicians with electronic experience.

“(We're telling our dealers) just don't look for a guy who can change shock absorbers, clutches; find a guy who knows electronics,” he says.

Meanwhile, Maserati wants to add up to 20 more retailers in the U.S. by 2007, bringing its total dealership count to 60. The auto maker says it needs to increase its dealer ranks in preparation for the launch of new models. Besides the Quattroporte,a new sports coupe is set to bow at the Geneva auto show this month. A cross/utility vehicle is on hold for now but remains a possibility in the future.

Maserati will continue to concentrate on dealers who own a Ferrari franchise but a recent alliance between Maserati and Audi AG calls for Audi dealers to be given the opportunity to acquire Maserati franchises, as well.

While the alliance with Audi also calls for Maserati to use Audi's finance operations for retail sales and leases, Maserati North America President and CEO Maurizio Parlato says J.P. Morgan Chase will continue to finance Maserati retail transactions near term.

Parlato says the auto maker and J.P. Morgan Chase already are working on a leasing program for the new Quattroporte in the U.S., although he refuses to give details. He says he expects leasing to account for between 30% and 40% of Quattroporte's retail transactions.