MODENA, Italy - Luxury carmaker Maserati, part of Fiat Chrysler, expects to sell as many cars in the first six months of this year as it did in the whole of 2013, the brand's chief executive said on Thursday, as it pushes to grow globally and rival its German peers.
Maserati put in a good performance last year, with sales more than doubling to 15,400 vehicles as parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles bet on the premium brand's Italian allure and recognized sporting heritage to try compete with the likes of BMW (IW1000/37) and Volkswagen's (IW1000/7) Audi and Porsche.
The revival of the Maserati brand represents a key element of Fiat Chrysler's attack on European profitability, alongside the relaunch of the sporty Alfa Romeo marque, as the group aims to move back into the black in a region which is only slowly recovering from a six-year slump in sales.
"In the first six months of this year we will have sold as many vehicles as in all of 2013 and 2013 was our best year," Maserati CEO Harald Wester said in a speech at the inauguration of an exhibition to celebrate the brand's centenary.
"Our sales are growing constantly; not because the market is growing but because clients choose our vehicles."
Wester said while the United States remained Maserati's biggest market, China was the best market for its two-door Quattroporte coupe, and Europe and Italy were also "starting to give us satisfaction."
He said Maserati was on track to meet annual sales targets of 50,000 vehicles next year and 75,000 by 2018 as part of a five-year plan Fiat Chrysler unveiled last month.
"It's an ambitious but also realistic plan, which is fundamental to turn Maserati into a true competitor to the great German carmakers," Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, chairman of sister brand Ferrari, told the same event.
The Maserati sports utility vehicle (SUV), the Levante, would come to the market late 2015 or in 2016, Wester added.
Maserati's product offensive is the most ambitious yet for the brand founded a century ago in Bologna by five brothers and which Fiat bought in 1993. Maserati secured its place in racing history by winning the Indianapolis 500 race in 1939 and 1940.
Wester said there were no plans to set up another plant for Maserati, but instead it would push to fill current sites.
Its current line-up includes the four-door GranTurismo sedan, the Quattroporte and the compact, lower-priced Ghibli. After the Levante SUV, the company has promised the Alfieri, a sporty two-seater, which will also come in a cabriolet version.
Copyright Reuters, 2014
Editing by David Evans