Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) group chairman and new Ferrari chief Sergio Marchionne gave a press conference at the recent Paris motor show on the same day that outgoing Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo bade farewell at the Ferrari press conference.
This is a near-verbatim report transcribed from a recording of Marchionne’s comments on the future of Ferrari. Questions have been inserted to make the full transcript readable. Marchionne took over from Montezemolo on 13 October, the day before shares in FCA started trading on Wall Street.
Can we expect significant change at Ferrari with the arrival of you as chairman?
SM: I think Luca and the team have done a phenomenal job of building the road car division. If you look at the uniqueness of the product, if you look at what was revealed today [the 458 Speciale A] – I have an Enzo and from zero to 100kph it is fighting this new 458. We have made huge strides technically in the last 10 years.
Does that mean significant changes are needed?
SM: There is a tradition that can’t be interrupted by a change of chairmanship. The uniqueness of the brand and the uniqueness of the technical skills are at the core of what Ferrari is.
Some critics fear that Ferrari may change too significantly…
SM: Just to clarify some of the gibberish that’s been going on in the press about trying to turn Ferrari into Lamborghini: even if we tried desperately, I don’t think we could!
So will the strategy change materially?
SM: It is absolutely clear that all Ferrari’s uniqueness, exclusivity and technical prowess must be preserved. So you’re not going to hear any significant deviation from the strategy that Luca put together.
How about exploiting Ferrari by selling engines or engineering services?
SM: The technical prowess of the brand needs to be preserved. I still think that there is a piece of Ferrari that may become available to a larger audience, but people may be buying engineering services and engines from them, as opposed to cars.
Does that mean Ferrari branching out into other areas?
SM: Cars need to stay the domain of Ferrari and it needs to do it as it has been for the past 10 years.
What about the Formula 1 team?
SM: The issue about F1 is a more difficult question. I keep getting reminded that racing is not a science, that a number of factors influence performance, and then I go to Monza and see that the first six cars are not Ferrari or powered by a Ferrari engine, and my blood pressure just popped.
So the poor performance of the F1 team is the main reason for change?
SM: If it happens once and happens twice, you wake up and maybe think there’s a better way to do this.
Ferrari last won a Formula 1 championship in 2008. Is that a problem?
SM: Ferrari since 2008 has been plagued by a number of mishaps, has lost a couple of championships – one at the last race. We have phenomenal drivers. Somehow, the chemistry of all this has not worked.
How important is fixing the F1 team?
SM: That continues to be my main objective in terms of Ferrari going forward. A non-winning Ferrari on the Formula 1 track is not Ferrari. I can live with periods of bad luck, but it cannot become a structural element of the brand.