“You should always build one less car than the market demands.” Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne likes to channel founder Enzo Ferrari’s credo when asked about his strategy for the world’s most famous sports car company. The only problem is the market for Ferraris ain’t what it used to be.
For a start, there are a lot more people in the world who can afford to buy a Ferrari than when Maranello was knocking out highly strung 250 GTs, 275 GTBs, or 365 Daytonas in tiny numbers to keep the wheels on Enzo’s beloved F1 and Le Mans racers. There are now about 195,000 people in the world with liquid assets of more than $30 million and more than 2,000 billionaires, according to people whose job it is to track such things.
Ferrari last year made a record number of cars—around 8,400—and is on track to build at least 9,000 in 2018. But if you won the lottery today and ordered an 812 Superfast to celebrate, it could be as long as two years before you got to drive it. Chronically rich people aren’t used to being kept waiting for anything, and Marchionne testily admits he’s spending a lot of time soothing the expensive egos of customers irked they can’t have their Ferrari, right now!
What irks the Ferrari boss, though, is that every car he can’t deliver in a timely manner means a potential sale for someone else. “A lot of people buy Lamborghinis because they can’t get their hands on a Ferrari,” he grumbles. The simple answer is to build more Ferraris, and Marchionne has said he plans to boost Ferrari production to 10,000 cars a year by 2019, a number that on current demand looks entirely sustainable—especially with this year’s launch of the Portofino, the new entry-level Ferrari that replaces the California T. But that’s only a short-term solution.
Bankers and analysts are confidently predicting the number of millionaires in the world is expected to grow by 37 percent over the next decade. That means even more potential Ferrari buyers, but it also means more buyers for whom Enzo Ferrari will be a mere abstraction, no more meaningful than Henry Ford, Soichiro Honda, W.O. Bentley, and Ferdinand Porsche are to today’s Ford, Honda, Bentley, and Porsche shoppers.
They might want a Ferrari. But they might not necessarily want Enzo’s Ferrari.
Sergio Marchionne knows this. His predecessor, Luca di Montezemolo, the man who artfully massaged the Enzo myth with modern marketing techniques, routinely proclaimed we would never see a four-door sedan or an SUV wearing the famous Prancing Horse badge. But under Marchionne, both have been actively discussed.
The Ferrari sedan won’t happen, as sales of conventional three-box four-doors—even ones with glamorous badge—are in a slow death spiral. That leaves the Ferrari SUV, an idea no longer as outlandish as a few short years ago, what with Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, and Lamborghini now following Bentley and Porsche into the segment.
“Ferrari will not produce an SUV competing with Porsche, Bentley, or Lamborghini,” insists Ferrari marketing boss Enrico Galliera. “An SUV can be a very fast car. But it’s not a sports car. We will remain consistent with our strategy, which is producing sports cars.”
Except … several sources have confirmed Ferrari is working on an all-road, all-wheel-drive, wagonlike vehicle with four doors that’s based on the architecture used for the GTC4Lusso. So what makes it more sports car than SUV? The laid-back driving position, apparently.
That low rumbling sound you hear is Enzo Ferrari rolling over in his grave. But with demand for highly profitable ultra-luxe SUVs booming—and Ferrari facing the prospect of losing the $100 million bonus payment it gets just for taking part in Formula 1—there is an air of inevitability about Ferrari building a vehicle to join the party. Just don’t dare call it an SUV.
More from Angus MacKenzie:
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- The Escalade Dilemma
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