Ferrari boss bullish on firm's future
- 9 June 2010
- From the section Business
"We don't sell really a car but we sell a dream."
So says Luca Montezemolo, the charismatic 62-year-old president of Ferrari.
His words sum up what the Italian sports car manufacturer is all about. Ferrari owners love "the emotion of driving, beautiful design and extreme technology", according to Mr Montezemolo.
And although the group is broadening its range of vehicles, he is adamant that Ferrari's reputation for being a luxury carmaker will not change.
The Ferrari boss arrived at the BBC in a 612 Scaglietti, a four-seater model, or "2+2", which is probably less conspicuous than most Ferraris, but which would set you back a cool £250,000.
He also brought along one of Ferrari's latest models, the California 2+2.
But if you think these sound like family cars you would be mistaken.
"In the future we will sell a Ferrari with four-wheel drive [but] we will never sell a family Ferrari," Mr Montezemolo states.
"When I say a 2+2 I mean an extreme sports car but you can put two children in the back, you can enjoy a performance car.
"Ferrari will remain very exclusive, we will continue to do less cars than the demand [is there for]," he adds.
And why not? Despite the struggles car manufacturers worldwide have faced in the past couple of years as demand for cars slumped, Ferrari seems to have fared pretty well.
Sales climbed steadily up until 2008 and then saw a 5.5% drop in unit sales to 6,294 in 2009.
And Mr Montezemolo is bullish about the future. "I see a very good future because Ferrari is present everywhere," he declares.
"We will open in India this year and we are present in every single country in the world except [in] central Africa."
The Ferrari boss is keen to emphasise the company's constant attempts to improve its technology, in particular with regards to environmental improvements.
The California has reduced its fuel consumption by 40% compared with the previous model, he says.
"Fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions are always crucial in our new models strategy," he says, adding that the first hybrid Ferrari will be produced in three to four years.
But for a company known for its motor racing vehicles and whose latest California model has not just one, but four exhausts, you'd be forgiven for raising an eyebrow when it starts listing its green credentials.
Mr Montezemolo dismisses any such scepticism. "You can have even ten exhausts, the problem is emission. This car is totally in line with even the hardest rules in the world on emission, thanks to innovation."
Nothing but the best
As the conversation turns to Formula One, the Italian makes no attempt to hide his displeasure at his team's performance this year.
"Regarding our team development I am not happy at the moment," he declares.
In the Formula One drivers' world championship, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso currently lies fourth, some 14 points behind Red Bull's Mark Webber, while Felipe Massa is seventh. In the constructors' championship, the team is third, behind McLaren and Red Bull.
For a team that has competed in every world championship since its inception in 1950 (and is the only one to do so), nothing but the best is good enough.
"At the start of the season we were first and second in the first race at Bahrain," he says. Six races later, they have yet to record another victory, let alone a one-two.
"I have pushed my people a lot to recuperate," he says. "After the first three races we had been at the top of the world championship. Now we are third [in the team standings] and fourth [in the drivers' standings]."
Can the team recover? "It's too early to say. Today there's very tight competition."
Last year, Ferrari was embroiled in a battle with the FIA, the sport's governing body, over its proposed £40m cap on team spending.
That cap was never introduced and Mr Montezemolo stands firm in his opposition to it.
"I am in favour of reducing costs but not to reduce technology. I don't want to put everybody on the same level. If they can't spend they can do something else, they can do GP2.
"This is important for competition. I am not a sponsor, I am a constructor, I do Formula One to improve my technology.
"Cost reduction is crucial but without changing the elements of the sport."
Rumour has it that the colourful Luca Montezemolo is the third most famous man in Italy, after the Pope and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
In 1990 he managed the committee which organised the World Cup in Italy.
He also served for four years as the president of Confindustria, the Italian equivalent of the CBI.
Until earlier this year he was also chairman of Ferrari's parent company Fiat, before being replaced by John Elkann.
Since leaving Fiat, he has regularly been linked with a career in politics.
But when asked if he could be the new Berlusconi, he simply laughs and says no.