A consumption tax hike may have tipped Japan into recession in 2014, but some luxury brands are immune to the doom, with sales at Italian carmaker Maserati tripling this year and foreign tourists helping to make up for the slack for high-end brands.
"Luxury is recession resistant," said Fabrizio Cazzoli, Maserati Japan's Representative Director. Buying an over 10 million yen (around US$83,000) car is an "emotional decision – if anything, higher specification models have been selling better," he said.
Maserati buyers' emotions must be running quite high to stay on track. Japan's economy shrank by 1.6 percent in the three months to the end of September, contracting for a second straight quarter.
Overall car sales hit by tax hike
The likely contraction culprit, April's three-percentage-point consumption tax hike to 8 percent, also put the kibosh on Japan's car sales. Between April and September, overall new car registrations dropped 2.8 percent on-year to 2.47 million vehicles, according to data from Japan Automobile Dealers Association; imported-car registrations were down 9.1 percent at 124,743 vehicles, according to Japan Automobile Importers Association (JAIA) figures.
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But not at Maserati: the company sold 640 cars, up 347.8 percent on-year, during the April-to-September period. Year-to-November sales more than quadrupled from a year earlier to 1,224 cars. Maserati Japan's Cazzoli says he expects to sell 1,300 cars in 2014 and 1,500 in 2015.
A renewed lineup and distribution network have also helped drive up sales. The new Quattroporte sedan, Granturismo sports coupe, and the entry-level Ghibli sedan have seen "sales growth everywhere," said Cazolli. Globally, Maserati is expecting to sell more than 35,000 cars in 2014, up from 15,400 in 2013, according to a Reuters report.