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MASERATI expects its breakneck sales growth in Australia to slow this year as the sports-luxury market seemingly takes a siesta.

Driven by the expansion of its range with the arrival of more mainstream models such as the Ghibli sedan in 2014 and Levante large SUV in 2017, the Italian brand has grown sixfold in five years, from 124 vehicles in 2012 to 740 last year.

Maserati Australasia chief operating officer Glen Sealey told GoAuto that he expected Maserati sales in Australia to maintain its 2017 sales levels, even though the sports-luxury segments the company competes in are down.

Whoa there: Maserati models such as the Levante have contributed to 600 per cent growth for the Italian brand in Australia, but sales growth is slowing.

“The overall Australian market is up, but the segments we compete in are off some somewhat,” he said. “So while we see ourselves maintaining the levels we achieved in 2017, we will do so in line with the market.

“We will not oversupply the market – we will keep supply relatively tight – but at the same time we see Maserati taking a bit of a breath after five years of incredible growth.

“So 2018 and 2019 for Maserati will be all about consolidating their growth.”

Mr Sealey indicated that the next growth phase for Maserati will become clearer when Maserati’s parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), unveils its new business plan on June 1.

Last year, with the first full year of sales of Levant – Maserati’s first SUV in its 103-year history – Maserati sales grew 53.2 per cent.

In the past six years, the only year of negative growth for the brand was 2016 when Maserati also “took a breather” after soaring in 2014 and 2015 on the back of Ghibli.

To the end of February this year, Maserati sales were up 0.6 per cent, with strong demand for the facelifted 2018 Ghibli which has retaken the Maserati sales lead from the Levante.

Maserati Ghibli S GranSport

Levante sales have stalled to the tune of 47.5 per cent compared with the same period of 2017 when the big AWD SUV was just new.

However, the luxury large SUV segment is universally down by almost 19 per cent, with segment leaders such as the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Range Rover Sport all slipping backwards.

The Levante, which was launched only as a diesel, now has a new twin-turbo V6 petrol engine that has expanded its reach, although Mr Sealey said diesel still held sway with customers, with two thirds of Levante buyers electing for that engine over the new petrol powerplant.

A new V8 variant, the Trofeo (Italian for trophy), was announced at the New York motor show although Mr Sealey said he could not confirm the variant for Australia.

“It would be a welcome addition to Levante, but we can’t confirm RHD today,” he said.

Mr Sealey said the large SUV segment had been about 90 per cent diesel in recent years, and that he still saw room for significant diesel sales in Australia in future.

“That said, Maserati is a brand known for attributes more in line with a petrol engine and we see that in our sales of both Ghibli and Quattroporte where we do have diesel models available, but the sales rate is very small.”

To date, the base petrol Ghibli had been the top-seller in the Ghibli range, which was different to other Maserati models where the flagship variants were usually the volume sellers.

Maserati is distributed in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa by European Automotive Imports, a company wholly owned by New Zealand-born businessman and former race driver Neville Crichton.

By Ron Hammerton

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