Ferrari’s Late Start in Electric Race Hands CEO Daunting Task
In 1947, Enzo Ferrari unveiled the first car that carried his last name. Long, light and packed with a powerful 12-cylinder engine, the Ferrari 125 S won six races that year, laying the foundation for what would become a record-breaking Formula One outfit and one of the most coveted auto brands on the planet.
Ferrari’s new CEO Benedetto Vigna now has the daunting task of reinventing the carmaker to make it fit for the electric age.
The brand synonymous with prancing horses is strong and should be able to withstand a shift toward batteries. After all, concerns that Porsche was straying from its sports-car roots by making SUVs proved to be unfounded. Still, I can’t help but associate Ferrari with the roaring engines of my 1980s childhood, when Miami Vice’s Sonny Crockett chased after the bad guys in his iconic white Testarossa.
With those days long gone, Vigna now needs to accelerate Ferrari’s electric push while retaining its allure and industry-leading margins.
The 52-year-old industry outsider — he joined from chipmaker STMicroelectronics last year — has rejiggered several divisions including product development to report directly to him to streamline decision-making. He hired two trusted tech executives from his former employer. Ferrari is also close to striking new partnerships as Vigna seeks to tackle the industry’s deep technological shifts, a person familiar with the situation told my colleague Daniele Lepido this week.
Some are already bullish about Vigna’s prospects. Morgan Stanley analysts made Ferrari its top auto-stocks pick for 2022, ahead of Rivian, Tesla and General Motors, on expectations that sales and margins will steadily climb this decade. Ferrari can grow in Asia and attract new customers thanks to a “world-renowned brand and a 12+ month customer orderbook,” analysts led by Adam Jonas wrote in a Jan. 4 report.
But there are warning signs amid the hype. The nature of electric drivetrains means that even sedans like Tesla’s Model S come with race car-like acceleration, so Ferrari is bound to lose some of its gasoline-era performance edge. The firm also has been among the slowest to embrace batteries, leaving it well behind not just Tesla but also Porsche and smaller upstarts like Rimac Automobili when it comes to EV technology.
There’s massive interest in how Vigna will handle Ferrari’s transition, and he’s expected to unveil more details during a capital markets day in June. I’ll be all ears.
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