Maserati expects flat sales this year, to hit 50,000 target in 2016

FRANKFURT, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Italian luxury carmaker Maserati expects its 2015 sales to be in line with last year’s and it will hit a delivery target of 50,000 vehicles only next year after production of its Levante SUV was delayed to February, the brand’s head said on Wednesday.

Maserati shipped 36,448 vehicles in 2014 and originally planned to hit the 50,000 target in 2015.

Harald Wester told journalists at the auto show in Frankfurt that sales of Masaerati’s first SUV would begin immediately after its launch at the Geneva auto show in March.

“The 50,000 sales target for 2016 also depends on how fast we can grow with the Levante, which for us represents the biggest commercial opportunity ever,” he said.

The Levante, along with the sporty two-seater Alfieri and a new version of the GranTurismo sedan that will be added to the line-up over the next two years, are meant to help Maserati to reach a sales goal of 75,000 vehicles by 2018.

Maserati’s range currently includes the four-door GranTurismo sedan, the two-door Quattroporte coupe and the compact, lower-priced Ghibli.

Along with Jeep, Maserati and Alfa Romeo are a central part of parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ ambitions to raise global sales to 7 million vehicles by 2018 from 4.6 million shipped last year.

With the Levante, Maserati is a latecomer to an increasingly crowded luxury sport utility vehicles market, with other luxury brands already parading their models in Frankfurt this week.

But Wester believes Maserati, which combines Italian design and engines made by sister brand Ferrari, can still offer something unique.

Wester also said work on hybrid models for both Maserati and Alfa Romeo, for which he is also responsible, had started.

“We have launched all the projects ... both for Maserati and Alfa Romeo we will have plug-in hybrids in the line up starting from early 2018,” he said.

Reporting by Agnieszka Flak. Editing by Jane Merriman