For Italian car fans who have missed seeing Maserati's Tridenet badge in the new car marketplace, the news that Maserati is returning to the North American market is news indeed.

The official announcement was made at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Maserati has been affiliated with Ferarri since 1997, when Ferarri bought the company from Fiat. Hoping to revive its fortunes, which flagged under Fiat ownership, Maserati displayed two brand new models, a Spyder convertible and a Coupe. Both models are rear drive, and powered by a 4.2-liter, 390-horsepower V-8. Producing 390 horsepower, this Italian stallion is capable of a top speed of 175 mph.

Unlike a Ferarri, the Maseratis are meant to be more of a daily driver, according to Sean Seltzer of Maserati North America.

Maserati plans to start selling the car in mid-March, with a pricetag somewhere north of $80,000. Seltzer says the company sees its competition as the Jaguar XK8 and XKR, the Mercede-Benz SL- series and the Porsche Carrera.

But, Seltzer says the buying experience is different from that of its competitors. "We don't advertise, we don't undercut, and we sell at full sticker."

So one won't see "buyer of the week" ads from Maserati dealers. Instead, the buyer will be able to customize.

Rather than containing a plastic dash, Maserati has leather- trimmed dashboards. A customer can customize the carpet, overhead liner, seat piping and stitching, even the brake calipers. Says Seltzer, "It's for those who want the only one like it."

Maserati is following the example set by Ferarri, which had a buyer who wanted her Ferarri seats trimmed with violet piping. Ferarri honored the request. "Somewhere there's a Ferarri with violet piping," muses Seltzer.

Maserati expects to sell 1,200 Spiders and coupes in the first year, with a Pininfarina-designed four-door sedan coming for 2004.