MILAN (Reuters) - Italian luxury carmaker Maserati received about 17,000 orders worldwide in the year to end-July, nearly triple the amount sold last year as new models started to attract buyers.
The 110,000 euro ($147,300) Quattroporte sedan was the biggest seller, said an executive at Fiat-owned Maserati which has invested 1.2 billion euros in new models to boost sales.
Selling more Maseratis is an important piece of Fiat's latest strategy to return to profit in 2016 in Europe, where it lost 700 million euros last year in a shrinking market.
"The numbers show that the United States is still our largest market globally, but that China has taken the lead for certain models such as the Quattroporte," Maserati brand chief executive Harald Wester said.
The new Ghibli model, an entry-level sedan starting at 66,000 euros, also helped boost orders. The new Quattroporte went on sale in January, and the Ghibli will be launched into dealerships in September.
Maserati aims to lift its sales from 6,288 cars in 2012 to 50,000 in 2015 helped by the Ghibli and an upcoming sports utility vehicle, the Levante.
With European car sales likely to fall again in 2013, Fiat-Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne aims to sell more Maseratis and other high-end brands in expanding markets such as the United States to cut losses and keep workers in their jobs.
The July numbers indicate that Maserati added about 3,000 orders in the space of a month. The most recent set of official figures from June 17 showed the company had collected 14,159 orders worldwide, 7,922 of which were for the Quattroporte.
The Ghibli had received 2,249 orders as of June 17.
Maserati's 2012 sales were 634 million euros, a fraction of Fiat-Chrysler's 84 billion euros group revenue.
While the increased profit from Maserati won't transform Fiat's bottom line, it bodes well for the company's upcoming relaunch of its higher-volume Alfa Romeo brand, said UBS analyst Philippe Houchois, who has a "hold" rating on Fiat stock.
Wester said a breakdown of final August sales would be available in a few days.
($1 = 0.7466 euros)
(Reporting by Jennifer Clark; Editing by Erica Billingham)