Maserati On Track to Hit Sales Target on Ghibli Demand

Maserati SpA is on schedule to boost sales eightfold in three years on orders for the new Ghibli sedan and plans to add its first sport-utility vehicle.

Maserati, which is owned by Fiat SpA, will start series production of the Levante SUV by the second quarter of 2015 at Fiat’s main Mirafiori plant in Turin, Italy, Harald Wester, the brand’s chief, told reporters today at the International Auto Show in Frankfurt. Maserati will build as many as 25,000 of the SUV a year.

“Our business plan for the SUV is conservative, with the break-even level at lower volumes,” Wester said. Maserati may have some positive surprises with the SUV, he said.

Fiat SpA is expanding Maserati’s lineup with an SUV as part of a strategy to add upscale models in Italy and end losses in Europe. Maserati wants to boost deliveries to 50,000 in 2015 from about 6,200 last year. Sales will rise more than double this year from 2012, according to a slide presentation posted yesterday on Fiat’s website.

The Italian carmaker, which controls Chrysler Group LLC, will extend layoffs for 5,300 workers to retool the Mirafiori plant for the Levante SUV, unions said last week.

Bolstering Maserati’s global appeal is key to Fiat Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne’s effort to end losses in Europe, which totaled more than 700 million euros ($929 million) last year. Fiat is counting on overseas demand for higher-margin luxury cars to keep workers at under-used Italian factories busy. To back its expansion, the brand will invest 600 million euros next year to develop new models.

Order Backlog

Maserati has more than 20,000 orders on its backlog at the end of August, Wester said. The Grugliasco plant, where Maserati builds its Ghibli and Quattroporte models, will deliver 3,000 cars a month starting in September, Wester said today.

While investing in upscale vehicles, Marchionne has scaled back spending on mainstream models for Europe. Fiat narrowed its first-half operating loss in the region by 48 percent to 185 million euros by cutting costs and reducing spending on developing new cars.

Marchionne skipped the Frankfurt show because of “unforeseen business commitments,” the automaker said. The CEO didn’t attend the show to prepare for the listing of CNH Industrial NV in New York, a person familiar with the plan said this week.

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