Maserati hopes the arrival next year of its 176mph Spyder will push UK sales above 500 units.
Maranello Concessionaires, an Inchcape Group subsidiary, is “cautiously optimistic” about selling 200 of the 390bhp V8 roadsters in 2002 despite a price of at least £75,000. A small number of the Spyders should be on sale late this year.
Combined Ferrari/ Maserati sales of 1,000 in 2005 is Maranello's objective. Britain is Maserati's second largest market, behind Germany, while it ranks third in global Ferrari terms after the US and Germany.
The Spyder will be unveiled at next month's Frankfurt motor show by Ferrari F1 champion Michael Schumacher and Luca di Montezemolo, Ferrari chairman and Maserati president. Its new 4.2-litre V8 engine and Formula 1-style sequential gearbox, operated via steering wheel-mounted levers, are supplied from Ferrari's new engine plant at Maranello.
An electrically-operated, push-button hood, which can be raised or lowered in under 30 seconds, is similar to that used on Ferrari's 360 Spider.
Maserati's new Spyder, the brand's first drophead model since 1995, is just over eight inches shorter than the 3200GT coupe. Structural re-enforcement required to make the convertible as crash resistant as the coupe makes the convertible 286lbs heavier, although Maserati claims 30% better fuel economy for the drophead. Richard Mackay, Maranello Concessionaires managing director, believes sales of the two marques can be increased by strengthening links with owners of older and classic Ferraris and Maseratis. Mr Mackay oversees a network of 15 joint Ferrari/Maserati outlets, plus a solus Ferrari dealer. There are open points in South Wales and the English home counties. His brand-building philosophy has included investing in six classic Maseratis, ranging from a 1963 Sebring 3500 and 1973 Bora to the 1980 Kamsin. Maserati's annual production should climb to more than 9,000 cars by 2005 with the arrival of a new 4dr.