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  1. #1
    Mockngbrd's Avatar
    Mockngbrd is offline BMW.SG Admin
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    Well worth reading: How Ferrari spins

    Jalopnik: Obsessed With The Cult Of Cars

    rant




    Chris Harris — I told the blokes here at Jalopnik I was pissed at Ferrari and wanted to tell a few people. They said I could do it here. Stay with me, this might take a while.


    I think it started in 2007 when I heard that Ferrari wanted to know which test track we were going to use for Autocar's 599 GTB road test, but in reality the rot had set in many years earlier. Why would it want to know that? "Because," said the man from the Autocar office, "The factory now has to send a test team to the circuit we chose so that they can optimize the car to get the best performance from it." They duly went to the track, tested for a day, crashed the car, went back to the factory to mend the car, returned, tested and then invited us to drive this "standard" 599. They must have been having a laugh.

    Sad to say it, but the ecstasy of driving a new Ferrari is now almost always eradicated by the pain of dealing with the organization. Why am I bothering to tell you this? Because I'm pissed with the whole thing now. It's gotten out of control; to the point that it will soon be pointless believing anything you read about its cars through the usual channels, because the only way you get access is playing by its rules.





    Like anyone with half a brain, I've been willing to cut Ferrari some slack because it is, well, Ferrari –- the most famous fast car brand of all and the maker of cars that everyone wants to know about. Bang out a video of yourself drifting a new Jag XKR on YouTube and 17 people watch it; do the same in a 430 Scuderia and the audience is 500,000 strong. As a journalist, those numbers make you willing to accommodate truck-loads of bullshit, but I've had enough now. I couldn't care if I never drive a new Ferrari again, if it means I never have to deal with the insane communication machine and continue lying about the lengths to which Ferrari will bend any rule to get what it wants. Which is just as well, because I don't think I'm going to be invited back to Maranello any time soon. Shame, the food's bloody marvelous.

    How bad has it been? I honestly don't know where to start. Perhaps the 360 Modena press car that was two seconds faster to 100mph than the customer car we also tested. You allow some leeway for "factory fresh" machines, but this thing was ludicrously quick and sounded more like Schumacher's weekend wheels than a street car. Ferrari will never admit that its press cars are tuned, but has the gall to turn up at any of the big European magazines' end-of-year-shindig-tests with two cars. One for straight line work, the other for handling exercises. Because that's what happens when you buy a 458: they deliver two for just those eventualities. The whole thing stinks. In any other industry it wouldn't be allowed to happen. It's dishonest, but all the mags take it between the cheeks because they're too scared of not being invited to drive the next new Ferrari.

    Remember the awesome 430 Scuderia? What a car that was, and still is. One English magazine went along with all the cheating-bullshit because the cars did seem to be representative of what a customer might get to drive, but then during the dyno session, the "standard" tires stuck themselves to the rollers.



    And this is the nub: how fucking paranoid do you have to be to put even stickier rubber on a Scuderia? It's like John Holmes having an extra two inches grafted onto his dick. I mean it's not as if, according to your own communication, you're not a clear market leader and maker of the best sports cars in the world now, is it?

    What Ferrari plainly cannot see is that its strategy to win every test at any cost is completely counter-productive. First, it completely undermines the amazing work of its own engineers. What does it say about a 458 if the only way its maker is willing to loan it to a magazine is if a laptop can be plugged in after every journey and a dedicated team needs to spend several days at the chosen test track to set-up the car? It says they're completely nuts –- behavior that looks even worse when rival brands just hand over their car with nothing more than a polite suggestion that you should avoid crashing it too heavily, and then return a week later.

    Point two: the internet is good for three things: free porn, Jalopnik and spreading information. Fifteen years ago, if your 355 wasn't as fast as the maker claimed you could give the supplying dealer a headache, whine at the local owners club and not much besides. Nowadays you spray your message around the globe and every bugger knows about it in minutes. So, when we used an owner's 430 Scud because Ferrari wouldn't lend us the test car, it was obliterated in a straight line by a GT2 and a Lambo LP 560-4, despite all the "official" road test figures suggesting it was faster than Halley's Comet. The forums went nuts and some Scud owners rightly felt they hadn't been delivered the car they'd read about in all the buff books. Talk about karma slapping you in the face.

    It's the level of control that's so profoundly irritating and I think damaging to the brand. Once you know that it takes a full support crew and two 458s to supply those amazing stats, it then takes the shine off the car. The simple message from Ferrari is that unless you play exactly by the laws they lay down, you're off the list.



    What are those laws? Apart from the laughable track test stuff, as a journalist you are expressly forbidden from driving any current Ferrari road car without permission from the factory. So if I want to drive my mate's 458 tomorrow, I have to ask the factory. Will it allow me to drive the car? No: because it is of "unknown provenance," i.e. not tuned. I'm almost tempted to buy a 458, just for the joy of phoning Maranello every morning and asking if its OK if I take my kid to school.

    Where I've personally run into trouble is by using owners' cars for comparison tests. Ferrari absolutely hates this; even if you say unremittingly nice things about its cars, it goes ape shit. But you want to see a 458 against a GT3 RS so I'm going to deliver that story and that video. Likewise the 599 GTO and the GT2 RS. Ferrari honestly believes it can control every aspect of the media — it has actively intervened several times when I've asked to borrow owners' cars.
    The control freakery is getting worse: for the FF launch in March journalists have to say which outlets they are writing it for and those have to be approved by Maranello. Honestly, we're perilously close to having the words and verdicts vetted by the Ferrari press office before they're released, which of course has always been the way in some markets.





    Should I give a shit about this stuff? Probably not. It's not like it's a life-and-death situation; supercars are pretty unserious tackle. But the best thing about car nuts is that they let you drive their cars, and Ferrari has absolutely no chance stopping people like me driving what they want to drive. Of course their attempts to stop me makes it an even better sport and merely hardens my resolve, but the sad thing is its cars are so good it doesn't need all this shite. I'll repeat that for the benefit of any vestige of a chance I might have of ever driving a Ferrari press car ever again (which is virtually none). "Its cars are so good it doesn't need this shite."

    None of this will make any difference to Ferrari. I'm just an irrelevant Limey who doesn't really matter. But I've had enough of concealing what goes on, to the point that I no longer want to be a Ferrari owner, a de-facto member of its bullshit-control-edifice. I sold my 575 before Christmas. As pathetic protests go, you have to agree it's high quality.

    Jesus, this is now sounding like a properly depressing rant. I'll leave it there. Just remember all this stuff then next time you read a magazine group test with a prancing stallion in it.



    Chris Harris is a UK-based freelance car writer who once bought a 1995 512 TR but sold it when his mates called him Tubbs and put Jan Hammer on his iPod.

  2. #2
    totoseow's Avatar
    totoseow is offline UNSTOPPABLE!
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    Re: Well worth reading: How Ferrari spins

    its a fact. ferrari makes more money from merchandising than selling 6000 cars a year.



    FERRARI HAS THREE problems. First, it could sell more cars, but it can’t put more on the road without losing the rarity that makes us all want one. Second, there are plenty of devoted, wealthy customers who would happily pay double what they do now for their cars, but Ferrari can’t rack up the prices without looking greedy. And third, there are millions who cannot afford a car but will happily buy anything plastered with the prancing horse, but Ferrari can’t cater for them all without looking tacky.
    All three problems spring from Ferrari’s central, eternal, business dilemma: how to eke more profit from one of the world’s greatest brands, when being seen to exploit it just might kill it stone dead. And the problems have just got more pressing.
    To raise the cash to take control of troubled US car giant Chrysler, Ferrari’s parent company Fiat is seriously considering selling what amounts to the Italian national team, with an initial public offering (IPO) likely later this year.
    So you might not be able to afford a Ferrari, but you might soon be able to buy a slice of the company. The pressure is on to boost sales and profits to maximise its value in advance of a flotation, but without harming that storied brand. Can it be done? And if you buy into Ferrari, what will you be getting? A supercar maker and Formula 1 team? Or a merchandising operation?
    Ferrari’s first problem – how many cars it can build without losing the exclusivity – is being solved by geography. Until recently Ferrari said it would never build more than 5,000 cars a year, but that cap has been dropped quietly. The firm knows it can sell more cars in markets where there were previously very few Ferraris without devaluing the brand in western Europe and America. In the first half of last year, sales in China rose 20 per cent.
    This year it will build more than 6,000 cars; pundits predict volumes will climb beyond 7,000 in the next few years as the global economy recovers, with almost all the additional cars going to emerging markets.
    The second problem – finding new and imaginative ways for spendthrift clients to throw money at Ferrari – is being solved with a series of new activities. (Clients buy cars; fans buy mugs. Ferrari’s marketing effort makes a clear distinction between the two.)
    The average client spends about €17,000 customising his or her car, but that’s only the beginning. In addition to the simple purchase of a road car, clients can now buy and run an old Formula 1 car with the Corse Clienti programme; become a factory test driver by buying an extreme, track-only FXX or 599XX; do a season’s racing in a F430 Challenge; have their vintage Ferrari restored at the factory; learn to drive better on a Pilota course; and choose from a range of lavishly-tooled and immensely expensive accessories. Ferrari acknowledges that these non-core activities have a significant impact on its profits.
    But it’s Ferraris approach to the third problem – what to sell to fans and how much access to give them – that is causing the most controversy. From the first official Ferrari store outside the gates of the factory in Maranello, there are now nearly 40 around the world, selling everything from Ferrari-branded deodorant to surfboards. And it has just entered the bizarre, slightly tacky, lowest-common-denominator world of the theme park, with Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi.
    Opened late last year by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, the park has received some very mixed reviews. Formula Rossa is the world’s fastest rollercoaster, using a 20,800bhp winch to accelerate you to 60mph in less than two seconds and on to about 240km/h. But there are also rides the Ferrari faithful won’t like quite as much, such as Junior Grand Prix, in which kids can drive miniature electric F1 cars into each other at very low speeds, get stuck and cry.
    The tifosi, Ferrari’s notoriously obsessive fans are perplexed. They desire Ferrari because it wins world championships and builds fast, sexy, unaffordable cars.
    But for most of its history, other than doing what it did best, Ferrari did nothing to encourage that desire. It was aloof and inaccessible. Ferrari didn’t advertise, sponsor celebrities or attempt to persuade us to want it – until now. Mystique doesn’t work that way. So it’s not just Ferrari’s decision to build a theme park that tifosi find perplexing, but the absolute about-face in its attitude to access.
    If Fiat has ordered Ferrari to open up to boost its value, it’s because of opportunism rather than desperation. For once, Fiat isn’t in trouble. Fiat Group Automobiles, which includes Fiat, Lancia and loss-making Alfa Romeo, makes about €600 million each year, mostly from its Brazilian operations.
    But Fiat’s iconoclastic chief executive Sergio Marchionne is convinced the company needs to be truly global to survive. So he negotiated a keen deal to take a stake in Chrysler, left bankrupt as the downturn ravaged the American car market, in return for the small-car technology that Fiat does so brilliantly and that American buyers, recession-battered and newly frugal, badly want. Marchionne has the option to increase Fiat’s stake in Chrysler to 51 per cent, but he needs cash to do it.
    Ferrari is the obvious source. Fiat Auto makes more than two million cars a year and is valued by Morgan Stanley at about €3 billion. Ferrari makes just 6,000 cars each year, but is worth €3.6 billion, because its sales and profits are growing, and its brand has what one analyst described as “magic dust”.
    “Selling part of Ferrari to invest in bankrupt Chrysler doesn’t seem like a great trade, does it?” says Max Warburton, the respected automotive analyst with Sanford Bernstein. “But their view is that they’re buying Fiat a future. Fiat’s management has a very clear plan to take control of Chrysler and it needs a couple of billion dollars to go to 51 per cent. Other than selling Alfa Romeo, which it is also actively pursuing, a Ferrari IPO is the only logical way to raise money quickly.”
    So how much of Ferrari’s business is now cars, and how much is mugs? Ferrari’s full-year results for 2010 are likely to show profits of more than €250 million on sales of about €1.8 billion. It has made some efficiencies in how it makes its road cars, and has had some forced upon it by the rule changes designed to make F1 more affordable for smaller teams.
    But Ferrari won’t say how much of its business is in racing and selling cars, and how much is merchandising.
    There are a few clues in the figures it chooses to release. In the third quarter of 2010, car sales were up 4 per cent but profits were up 46 per cent. It doesn’t state any absolute figures, but income from licensed, Ferrari-branded products was up 10 per cent, Ferrari Store revenues 30 per cent, and online sales of merchandise 55 per cent.
    “We know exactly how much the other activities are worth, and it is significant,” said Ferrari managing director Amedeo Felisa when we asked him. “But if I told you how much it is, you’d be able to work out how much we make on the road cars, and how much the Formula 1 costs us. And then I’d lose my job, and I have a family.”
    Warburton, a man known to have the ear of Marchionne, doesn’t know either. “They’ve never revealed how the income breaks down. Some people talk about Ferrari’s non-car activities being 30 per cent of its revenues, which seems on the high side, but it could be that this new theme park is a game-changer.”
    But does it matter if Ferrari is selling more mugs and umbrellas to its fans, opening more stores, and even a theme park? Won’t the new Chinese billionaires and old-world Ferrari obsessives keep buying every car the firm makes?
    “I have a gut feeling that it is an extremely risky thing to do,” says Warburton. “But they’re not daft, these people. They must have done their homework and realised that selling more merchandise won’t affect the price point of a 599.”
    But what first made you want a Ferrari? Probably the sight or sound of one. Future Ferrari buyers are unlikely to say that their obsession with the brand began with being bought a cuddly camel in a Ferrari World outfit.

  3. #3
    Racebred's Avatar
    Racebred is offline BMW.SG Admin
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    Re: Well worth reading: How Ferrari spins

    I remember reading in the Evo mag's performance car of the year shootout, which included the participation of the 458, Ferrari didnt allow the inclusion of (i think) the GTO, chiefly because they cannot allow 2 of their own ferraris to compete in the same competition as one of them would surely lose. how anal....
    and if the magazine went to source for their own customer car, ferrari will retaliate by pulling out the 458. sart.

  4. #4
    Mockngbrd's Avatar
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    Re: Well worth reading: How Ferrari spins

    ^ in the end still never win

  5. #5
    Oilman's Avatar
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    Re: Well worth reading: How Ferrari spins

    I still find the 458 rear a bit weird... but the front is Ok end of OT.

  6. #6
    Shaun's Avatar
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    Re: Well worth reading: How Ferrari spins

    how shady the world of high performance and racing... cheated up test cars, cheating in just about all forms of racing (look at the monthly list of who got caught and imagine how many got away with it), team orders, dirty drivers, money laundering and execution (Gemballa boss), CPIB investigation of Changi track, J's boss running over and killing his colleague with car, gaudy / loud obnoxious cars attracting the same kind of personalities to the sport, betting and involvement with gangsters, triads...

    Can't blame some of the upper class when they look upon the industry and sport as one only for rogues and ruffians

    Through blood and night, to light.
    W D A W Y K

  7. #7
    totoseow's Avatar
    totoseow is offline UNSTOPPABLE!
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    Re: Well worth reading: How Ferrari spins

    so street racing maybe gains u more creds.....oops

  8. #8
    Shaun's Avatar
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    Re: Well worth reading: How Ferrari spins

    yes.. credibility with the chimps

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  9. #9
    Mockngbrd's Avatar
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    Re: Well worth reading: How Ferrari spins



    There u go

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