Maserati tells us its Quattroporte luxury sedans are “remarkable without showy excesses”, part of a “legend that never stops inspiring”. Just the type of thing, then, to ferry about world leaders.
Try telling that to Papua New Guinea’s government, which has been trying to shift the 43 cars it bought from the Italian manufacturer in 2018 to chauffeur the great and good assembled for the five-day Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) conference in the capital, Port Moresby.
Ever since, the vehicles have inspired anger among locals, even leading thousands to go on strike for a day after their arrival alongside three Bentley Flying Spurs. Four years on, after failing to find local or foreign buyers in a nation where 40 per cent live below the poverty lines, and where most roads would trouble the hardiest 4×4, the government has admitted defeat.
A Bentley has been allocated to James Marape, the prime minister
ANDREW KUTAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Even after cutting the price to the equivalent of £84,000 each — they cost more than £100,000 — the authorities have been unable to offload the cars, Elias Wohengu, the foreign affairs secretary, said.
“Used cars are not accepted in many host countries — also we don’t have a permit for exporting used cars out of PNG,” Wohengu told Port Moresby’s Post Courier newspaper. “Australia will not accept these cars from here. Singapore totally no. These are some examples.”
Around the time they were imported, the authorities defended the purchases amid frustration from Australia, the biggest aid donor to Papua New Guinea. Justin Tkatchenko, the minister for the summit, said they would provide “the level of carriage for leaders that is the standard for vehicles used at Apec summits”.
Some leaders, however, refused to use them. Tkatchenko also claimed that the vehicles would “sell like hot cakes” to locals once the summit ended. The prime minister at the time, Peter O’Neill, promised that the government “will not be out of any funds”.
Costing more than £5 million, the cars languish in a dusty Port Moresby warehouse. In 2019, James Marape, then the finance minister, took reporters to the building to prove that none of the cars were missing or stolen. Officials were forced to plead for the return of almost 300 other vehicles bought for the summit, including many new 4x4s that vanished after being loaned to local officials.
Wohengu did not say what would become of the Maseratis. However, one of the cars has found a home. A Bentley has been allocated to Marape, now the prime minister.