MILAN (Bloomberg) -- Maserati is deepening production cuts as a boom prompted by the more affordable Ghibli sedan fades. The brand's slowing sales volume raises questions about parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' ambitions to expand in the luxury-car segment.
Maserati will halt production for six weeks in the next two months, including four consecutive weeks from December 14, according to unions at luxury unit's main plant in Grugliasco in northern Italy.
About 2,000 workers at the site will be put on temporary furloughs for most of the days and will have a longer than usual Christmas break. The move follows a more limited cut in output in September.
Maserati declined to comment.
"It really is an indicator of the shallowness of that segment," said Bill Visnic, an independent automotive analyst based in Weirton, West Virginia. "Maserati has a name that's very niche, and it sells in a market segment that's not deep anyway. That gets you an initial boost, and then after that the cliff is really steep."
Maserati's stalled revival doesn't bode well for Fiat Chrysler's more aggressive plans for Alfa Romeo, which will roll out the Giulia sedan next year and follow with a SUV. Both Maserati and Alfa Romeo have a widespread fan base because of their histories but are niche players in the modern automotive market, lacking the infrastructure and marketing power of bigger rivals such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
With the longest production halt since the marque unveiled the Ghibli in 2013, Maserati's output is set to drop about 25 percent to about 26,000 vehicles this year, according to IHS Automotive.
The slowdown will make it harder for Maserati to reach its target of boosting sales to 50,000 cars next year and to 75,000 in 2018. Deliveries will probably still increase this year, however, as the carmaker sells vehicles from its growing inventory.
Maserati's operating profit tumbled 87 percent to 12 million euros in the third quarter as deliveries dropped 22 percent. The decline stemmed from weakness in China and North America.
To revive growth, the brand plans to introduce the Levante SUV next year. It's also developing a two-seater sports car.
The success of Maserati, which rose to fame by setting speed records in the 1920s, is especially crucial to help offset the loss of Ferrari. The supercar maker's spinoff from Fiat will be completed in January as part of an effort to help finance a 48 billion euro ($52 billion) investment plan.
"We need to slow it down," Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told analysts in an October 28 conference call, reaffirming Maserati's 2018 sales target. "We need to take a deep breath and just work our way through the issues and effectively get ready for the Levante launch."