News and views on motorsports

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Some Concern For Ferrari

I must be out of my mind writing this. Its no secret, I loathe the Ferrari team. Yes, their successes over the years are admirable but here is a team high on politics and low on sportsmanship and fair play. It has always been so. However, I am a great fan of the road cars. What can I say? They're usually good looking, fast and have plenty of that inimitable Italian style.

More than any other car manufacturer, their successes in racing have built up the romance and passion of their road cars. Here is a manufacturer that can truly make a link between competition and their products, for they have managed somehow or another to incorporate their racing technologies with their road offerings. From a technical perspective, its all good. However, if Formula 1 goes "green" come 2011, I don't see how a biofuel engine fits into Ferrari's road car plans. But lets leave that aside.

So why or what am I so concerned about? The June 07 issue of the UK Car magazine celebrates Ferrari's 60th year as a car manufacturer. It features a test of 10 of the greatest Ferrari road cars ever made. Glad to see all my favourites made it in. Not least the 288 GTO, F40, Dino 246, 308 GTB and of course, the incomparable 250 GTO. Jeez. Don't you wish car makers still did a 3 litre V12 engine? Sweet!

The magazine also had an editorial feature with some disturbing things to say. Its nothing new of course, for the issue had already been discussed on a few F1 websites not least and Pitpass, and it is the rampant commercialism by Ferrari. of course must be truly happy. They have been advocating all sorts of ideas (usually taking some NASCAR example) for yet even greater promotion of Formula 1. The dumbest of the lot was the idea for some silly romance novels based on NASCAR. F*****g romance novels?! So surely I would have imagined they'd be thrilled about the idea of a bloody Ferrari theme park, in some damned fool Middle Eastern country.

These are the worst of it but there are other bad ideas that Maranello are involved with. Ferrari notebooks, badly designed t-shirts, sunglasses and oh my god.... even barbie dolls, teddy bears and musical toys! Then of course there's that extremely frumpy dealership they have at that Las Vegas casino hotel where the extremely tasteless can partake in Maranello magic.

To be sure, old man Enzo was a racing man first, road car manufacturer second. By all accounts, he viewed the manufacture of road cars as a necessary evil to finance his racing cars. Stories of his distaste for customers are legendary. How do you think Automobili Lamborghini got established? Ferrucio was one dissatisfied customer. Now, we all know the price of competing succesfully in Grand Prix racing these days, but would Enzo have resorted to some of this blatant and tasteless commercialism to finance it?

The old man, wherever he is right now, simply cannot be at peace and surely he must be turning in his grave from all this commercialism. I realise the importance of economic realities. Ferrari can no longer dig into Fiat's coffers for its racing budget, because its parent no longer has much in the war chest. Hence Ferrari needs to resort to other methods of financing including relying on tobacco money and of course, expanding its production to sell to ever eager and status hungry customers in the East. I know that they have other shareholders apart from Fiat to please, such as Mudabala for instance who want returns not romance. I know merchandising is easy money. A 20 pound sterling t-shirt for instance costs about 50p to make. But do they really need theme parks and barby dolls?

All this commercialism simply dilutes the name. Out the door goes all that history, all the heritage, all the... shock horror... exclusivity. The name ceases to become special. Just another stupid brand like MacDonalds or Nike. I mean really, does the average Ferrari fan (I refuse to call these people tifosi) really get it? Do they understand why that badge carries so much prestige and magic? The true tifosi who do get it I suspect are far fewer in numbers and some Ferrari owners I know do not count as one of these.

There's nothing much I can do about these things but its still very sad. And in the long run, could counteract as the Ferrari name and image becomes all too common, being increasingly associated with the tacky and tasteless. At least they're smart enough to hire some bloke to do brand management. But why should that position be needed in the first place?

Would all of this ever stop me from aspiring to Ferrari ownership? I must say that its an extreme turn off but a Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole going for under 25,000 pounds sterling is a bloody tempting offer and one that I may just one day decide to succumb to. Nimble, petite and pretty unlike its Eurotrashy descendent, the F430, with lots of style and some small measure of pace and excellent turn in. Brilliant. But soon enough some time in the future (if it hasn't already), I'd wish the Cavallino Rampante wasn't on the bonnet. I'd still drive my car every Sunday though.


LJM said...

I just wanted to point out a few FACTS. The Theme park isn't costing Ferrari a penny! That is a total fabrication created by anti Ferrari web sites to make news where none exists. The money is being totally funded by a 15% share holder and one of the richest families in the Arab world. They have been given Ferrari's blessings and access rights for the name and logo. And the reason why it's being done in an Arab state. They Love Ferrari, and the Arabian horse(aka:Cavalino) is a treasured symbol of their own ancestry and history. A proud and noble symbol and a point of pride.

A second fact to correct the DISinformation.
Ferrari is financially self sufficient and has been since the 90's. Those so called "tasteless" souvenirs you mentioned generates so much cash that they alone can produce more than 1/3rd of the F1 programs funding. The fact is that Ferrari sells more such products as all other F1 teams combined world wide, and every team(non more than Mr.Dennis) envies and dreams of that kind of annual loyal income from the F1 fan base. 70% of the F1 fan base are loyal Ferrari fans.

Now these stories you have repeated have been around for over 20 years and couldn't be further from the truth. They are pure fiction

Another fact...
Ferrari was used to Save the entire Fiat company by allowing 35% of it's stocks to be held by banks for securing bank loans. And since Fiat has pretty much recovered, Ferrari has since reacquired those stocks save for that 15% I previously mentioned to said Arab partner. And that will turn into another source of revenue once that theme park is up and running.

There is so much crap and jealousy based disinformation floating around that's intending to mar or smear the Ferrari name that it's so disingenuous to even repeat such garbage it isn't funny. Get some facts from sources other than British based media with a axe to grind for their perceived slight for Ferrari having the audacity to beat a British team. Read some of Fiat's and Ferrari's own financial reports as I have done for years and maybe you might finally realize that the very garbage you hear and believe is based on hate and jealously and has nothing to do with facts or reality.

Every single thing that Ferrari has ever been accused of doing as a reason or basis for disliking them or vilifying them has been done by every team on the grid. The only difference is that Ferrari doesn't whine, cry and point accusatory fingers when they get beaten. Ferrari never makes excuses. They just move onto the next event and they are alway the first to congratulate a competitor who has beaten them. They are not the hypocrites or the ones who bring dishonor and damage to the image of F1!

Nobody stated in the 80's that F1 was boring or unfair, or that McLaren cheating when they were lapping the field with Honda!
That only happens when it's Ferrari who dominates.

Nobody whines like Ron Dennis!

Qwerty said...

Perhaps all may be true. But whether theme parks come for free or not, its still a ghastly thought that a proud name like Ferrari is given to detestable souveniers and toys.

Oh and I seem to recall both di Montezemolo and Todt whining about the rules back in 2005 when Ferrari were being whipped but good. They whined their way to Max Mosley after Michael Schumacher got lapped in Hungary in 2003. Perhaps Ferrari doesn't make excuses in public, their methods are far more cunning than that. They simply get the rules or rulings changed to their benefit. Nobody plays politics like Luca, Todt and their cohorts.

But my point was not to put down Ferrari. As I said before, I love their road cars. I only wish they would preserve their heritage a little better...

...and have less fans like you, sir.

Anonymous said...

LJM is so right. And let me rephrase our friend Mike, who once cracked me with this: "Dennis family must be having awesome christmas pudding. Ron is so good at stirring".

Anonymous said...

Rather absurd to fault Ferrari on sportsmanship and fair play given McLaren's astounding behaviour this year. Stealing design secrets, spying on race tactics, attempting to overturn Kimi's WDC, etc.

Kathie Americanmusclecar said...

I love the Ferrari F40