With Europe in a continuing economic slump, two European luxury sports car makers say they’re looking to Asian customers for growth. Germany's Porsche AG says it’s planning to increase its dealerships in China from 68 to 100 by the end of next year, while Italy's Maserati SpA hopes doubling the number of outlets and a focus on Asia will help it meet an ambitious sales target.
Chinese home prices fell last month for the first time in two years, and first quarter growth was down from the same period last year. China’s overall growth hit 7.7 percent last year, but is expected to fall to 7.5 percent in 2014 as Beijing grapples with a growth in risky lending and rising provincial debt.
But Deesch Papke, president and chief executive of Porsche (China) Motors, brushed aside larger economic concerns in the Asian giant, pointing to a 9.5 percent gain in Porsche sales for the first five months of the year to 16,465 cars.
“We're confident that the year is going to be double-digit in any case on last year," Papke told the Wall Street Journal at a company event in Shanghai Friday.
Porsche is the most popular of the high-end sports car brands in China because it offers two body styles most competitors in this niche don’t. Wealthy Chinese prefer a lot of interior space and SUVs over compact two-door racers. The Porsche Panamera four-door sedan and the Cayenne luxury crossover have helped the company gain market share in a country with roughly 4 million households considered wealthy enough to afford a European luxury car.
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Meanwhile, Italy’s Maserati also has its sights set on growing its business in Asia.
“China and the Asia Pacific region is the second strongest center of gravity for our business,” Maserati CEO Harald Wester said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Italy on Thursday. “For the last couple of years, we sold 800 cars in these markets in a year. Right now, we are selling this amount of cars in a month.”
The Modena, Italy, maker of the Quattroporte and Ghibli luxury sedans plans to double its dealerships to 500 by the end of next year as part of its parent Fiat Chrysler’s ambitious plan to boost sales to 75,000 cars in 2018, up from 15,400 last year. Wester said the Maserati has already breached last year’s sales numbers in 2014. The CEO said that while the U.S. remains Maserati’s biggest market, China is the top market for its Quattroporte coupe.