* CEO sees China 2017 sales up to 18,000 cars vs 12,250 in 2016
* Sees global 2017 sales of 55,000 cars from 42,000 last year
* Says Maserati growth not tied to China's overall car market (Adds CEO comments, context)
By Jake Spring
SHANGHAI, April 19 (Reuters) - Fiat Chrysler Automobile NV's premium Maserati brand expects to see sales in China rise as much as 47 percent this year, the firm's chief executive said on Wednesday.
Reid Bigland said China sales of the luxury Italian brand would be 17,000 to 18,000 vehicles, from 12,250 last year. He was talking to reporters at an auto show in Shanghai.
Bigland said the firm's growth prospects in China were not tied to the overall Chinese car market, which many in the industry expect to slow this year as tax incentives on small-engine cars are reduced.
"Whether the market is going to be up or down seven or eight percent, we're not playing in that arena," he said, adding growing demand from younger consumers for luxury experiences, comfort and performance was behind the forecast.
He added Maserati was forecasting global sales of 55,000 vehicles this year, versus 42,000 in 2016.
In October Fiat Chrysler nudged up its full-year forecast, partly on the back of strong profit at Maserati, helped by the launch of its first sport utility vehicle, the Levante. (Reporting by Jake Spring; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Christopher Cushing)