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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Australian luxury sports car buyers largely ignored the global financial crisis in 2008, making it Maserati's most successful year in the country where overall automobile sales have dropped.
Sales of the Italian brand rose 50 percent in 2008, becoming the first exotic sports car brand to sell more than 200 cars in a year in Australia, Maserati Australia said on Wednesday.
"Maserati has defied market conditions to record its third successive record breaking sales year in Australia and, in doing so, has become the fastest growing car brand in Australia," it said in a statement.
Maserati said it could not keep up with demand for its most expensive car, the Gran Turismo S, launched in October 2008 at the Sydney Motor Show, with a pricetag of A$328,500 (US$236,400).
"It is our most expensive and our best selling car. We have sold everything we've got and we still have about 25 orders for those," Maserati Australia General Manager Edward Butler told Reuters. Buyers range from CEOs and architects to doctors.
But Butler said the financial crisis was starting to have an impact on sales in Australia, which is struggling to avoid a recession, but nothing major.
"We're not naive, we do expect that the market's going to be tough (in 2009) but we're lucky that we have newer models than our competitors," he said.
While luxury car buyers have been little affected by the credit crisis in Australia, overall demand for cars had dropped, with sales falling 3.6 percent. However, 2008 was only the second time car sales in Australia passed the one million mark.
Chief executive of Australia's Federated Chamber of Automotive Industries, Andrew McKellar, said the local market had done well to keep the slide in sales to only 3.6 percent.
"If you look at what's been happening around the world, you see the results in North America and other key markets are down by 40 percent, so, in that context, to get to an outcome where you exceed one million units in a calendar year, is, in fact, a very good outcome," McKellar told local media.
Editing by Michael Perry and Miral Fahmy