The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

Buon Compleanno! - Happy Birthday Ferrari

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


By By Marty Bernstein
Senior Editor-At-Large
The Auto Channel
SAIADA Contributing Editor

Ferrari. Just say the word softly … rolling and lengthening the R’s like an Italian does… Ferrrrrari!


Instantly the mind conjures images and dreams of a marvelous red machine roaring down the Auto Strade in the Tuscan hills between Florence and Pisa, a lovely lady, signora bella in Italian, beside you. Or you’re in an F1 getting the checkered flag just like Michael Schumacher has done. More than likely, though, you and I are staring at one parked on the street, as it passes you on an expressway, or gleaming on display at an auto show.


No matter where, when or how this is the ultimate in auto envy. Ferrari is the quintessential “that’s the car I’d buy when I win the lottery.” Aspirational – you bet! Affordable – maybe if you are a hedge funds manager or rock star. Audible – it’s the auto sound recognized throughout the world. Addictive – yes, but in a good sense.


To celebrate this memorable occasion in a way only the Italian’s would, can and do, Ferrari embarked on a year long, worldwide celebration of its 60th birthday just a few months ago. To learn more about the famous company I began a research quest gleaning information from many sources on the web – did you know the word “Ferrari” generates 105 million Google hits?


Additionally, while attending the recently concluded New York International Auto Show, I had the opportunity of interviewing Maurizio Parlato, president of Ferrari of America. Parlato has been with Ferrari in a variety of managerial positions throughout the world, including China and five years ago he was named president over U.S. operations.


Enzo & The Early Years


The success of Ferrari can be directly attributed to one man, Enzo Ferrari, the founder and visionary who almost single-handedly created what is now Ferrari from the ashes and rubble in Maranello, Italy after WWII.


An auto racer by vocation and desire, Ferrari joined Alfa Romeo first as a test and race driver and was later promoted to head their racing operations and a small factory in the 1930s. It was during this first time that the famous Prancing Horse Scuderia Ferrari logo appeared. The war intervened; however, and auto racing was cancelled and the factory became a victim of circumstances producing machine tools and airplane parts until it was bombed in 1944.


After the war in 1946, the factory was rebuilt into a facility capable of building road cars. In 1947, 60 years ago, the first Ferrari road car was built – the 125 S powered by a V12 engine. In 1948, the first Ferrari racecar – the 125 F1 – was built. It finished 3rd in the Italian Grand Prix and two years later in 1950, when Formula 1 World Championships began, Ferrari began its formal racing competition.


Ferrari 125 S, the first Ferrari


Racing – Building the Ferrari Reputation Quickly


Ferrari and racing are more than a phrase: together the pair is an automotive racing aristocracy with unrivaled heritage; their legacy, packed with accomplishments and traditions, remains unrivaled in F1 racing today.


The list of the red car’s racing success is lengthy. The ‘50s included 4 wins in F1 and sports car racing. Even with tough racing competition in the ‘60s and the decades that followed, even when wins were seldom, Ferrari was acknowledged as the competition to beat.


Until his death in 1988, Enzo Ferrari, Il, or “Commendatore” as he was known, continued to build road cars in order to provide the capital for auto racing his amore allineare, or true love. An apocryphal rumor exists that Enzo was disdainful of those who bought his car for prestige, rather than performance. No matter what drove consumers to buy Ferrari cars, the company has built one helluva (no Italian translation) auto business on many levels internationally.


The Business of Ferrari


Long before leveraged buyouts, mergers and acquisitions became the currency of international business growth Fiat became a shareholder and technical partner with Ferrari in 1969.


The investments, made possible by the new partner, fueled the expansion of facilities in Maranello with test tracks, engineering facilities, wind tunnels and other improvements. The lackluster race results were replaced with wins and accolades. Ferrari racing holds almost every Formula One record, including: 14 world driver championships, 14 World Constructors Championships, 180+ Grand Prix victories, and other titles.


It is the record of accomplishments, which continues to propel Ferrari’s sales of vehicles while maintaining a level of engineering, technical and design excellence that has created more than a cult of F1 racing aficionados – it has developed a brand loyalty and mystique even in America, the home of Indy, Champ and Nascar racing, where F1 is virtually unknown.


To this racing point, I pointedly asked Ferrari’s U.S. CEO, “How do you account for Americans’ fascination and love of Ferrari, when F1 racing is not even a blip on the sports radar here?” Responding in fluent, almost unaccented English, the Italian-born Parlato replied, “The Ferrari reputation and image has been built on engineering excellence, superb quality, technical innovation and performance.”

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Ferraris cruising the avenue in Beverly Hills, CA

A lot of car envy – as more American’s had more money to spend – has continued to generate exceptional growth for Ferrari sales in the U.S. at its 36 dealerships plus a high rent, prestigious Park Avenue & 55th Street location in New York City. In 1997, a total of 800 Ferrari cars were sold in the U.S.; in 2006, 1,635 were sold, a modest increase of 204 percent.


Worldwide, Ferrari’s business is molto buon, or very good. Ferrari SPa’s charismatic president, Luca di Montezemolo, earlier this year announced the Prancing Horse brand delivered 5,671cars through a network of 200+ dealers in 52 countries around the world. This amounted to a sales increase of 4.8 percent over 2005. Sales amounted to €1,447 million, or US $1,958 billion, a rise of 12.2 percent, and profits were up 16.4 percent to €183 million, or US $248 million.


Good, even great numbers, but what’s even more interesting is the company’s sales and profit growth in products bearing the Ferrari logo, an expanding chain of international retail stores, a huge web-based business, and in Abu Dhabi, a new venture.


Ferrari – A Merchandising Marvel  


If Tiger Woods is the most recognized face on the planet and Coca Cola the most recognized brand name, then Ferrari must be the most recognized automobile brand. According to the company, there are over 1,800 different products licensed to use the Ferrari name. And the Prancing Horse logo is on almost everything and anything from anoraks to zabaglione. If they don’t have it… you probably don’t need or want it.


These licensed products – Ferrari receives a percentage of every sale – are sold through the Internet at official Ferrari web stores and in 15 retail locations, including new stores in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. And much like the company’s products, these licensed items are of the highest quality with prices that, like the vehicles, define sticker shock.


There’s a Ferrari driving school and a Ferrari experience in the U.S., with prices starting at $8,200 for the joy of driving the big red machines.


In a couple of years, a Ferrari theme park [think Disney on steroids] will open in Abu Dhabi. Covering thousands of meters when completed, the Ferrari Theme Park will have 24 attractions, including a driving school, virtual simulation, rides, and stores to purchase Ferrari merchandise.  


Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday Ferrari. Happy Birthday to you.


May 25, 2007 marks the 60th year the very first Ferrari 125 S won the Rome Grand Prix, an amazing victory when one knows this was only the second time the car had raced. Equally amazing is the company’s 60th Anniversary program.


And what better way to recognize this accomplishment than to stage a year long race – the Ferrari 60 Relay – and host a series of top notch Ferrari events for the car company’s heritage of elite customers. The relay involves passing a specially made baton, encrusted with enamel symbols in honor of 60 of Ferrari’s most memorable events and is topped by a platinum and diamond horse logo.


The relay started earlier this year in the Middle East and has moved across five continents and various venues. When the relay ends on June 23, 2007 in Maranello, it will have been seen by over 10,000 passionate Ferrari owners. They’ve been at the wheels of every model ever made by the company in these celebratory events. Some of the Ferrari’s at these events, according to Maurizio Parlato, “Are worth tens of millions of dollars. They are exceptional and rare Ferraris.”

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
The ultra-exclusive Ferrari Scaglietti

And to add to what is already ultra-exclusive, Ferrari has crafted 60 unique vehicles based on the model 612 Scaglietti, Ferrari’s best Granturismo ever. The special edition combines handcrafted trim with state-of-Ferrari-art accessories, new color options, a glass roof and a grouping of enamels similar to those on the baton. This is the collectors’ car for very few wealthy, passionate Ferrari collectors.

As Ferrari joins the ranks of millions of baby boomers here in America, it remains healthy and vibrant, the dream machine for millions around the world. Join me in wishing all baby boomers buoni salute e successo continuati, or continued good health and success.