In these boom times for carmakers, it's hard to find one that isn't pushing the accelerator on its factories, from Kia to Bentley. But Ferrari revealed today that after hitting an all-time record for sales in 2012, it will cut its output this year to fewer than 7,000 cars in a strategy to maintain its aura of exclusivity — which Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo compared to waiting for a beautiful woman.
And if you think that beautiful woman will ever arrive in a Ferrari electric car, you will be waiting a long time.
Between a resurgent U.S. economy, strong oil prices and China's move toward luxury goods, high-end carmakers have never had it quite so good. In 2012, Ferrari sold 7,318 cars, its best year ever, and the 499 copies of the LaFerrari supercar unveiled in Geneva in March have already been spoken for.
But unlike Porsche, which has bolstered its line with SUVs and sedans and has aggressive plans for growth, Ferrari has steadfastly refused to expand beyond two-door grand tourers, with only the hatchback FF breaking the mold. By all measures, Ferrari remains the world's most valuable automotive brand — the company makes $100 million a year from licensing its name for luxury goods — in large part because a Ferrari owner can feel like a member of an exclusive club.
Speaking at a gathering of reporters from around the world at Ferrari's factory in Maranello, Italy, Di Montezemolo said maintaining Ferrari's image was far more important than trying to push as many sports cars as possible out the gates.
"In order to preserve this exclusivity concept, you must be brave enough to manufacturer the lower number of cars," he said. "Those who buy a Ferrari buy a dream, and they must be reassured that their dream of exclusivity will be fulfilled."
Di Montezemolo wouldn't put a specific number on the cut, saying only that Ferrari would build fewer than 7,000 cars in 2013; it sold 1,798 in the first quarter. He also said the company would match its revenues and profits from 2012 even though it wouldn't move as many vehicles — counting on the innate desire of Ferrari customers to close the gap.
"Ferrari is like a beautiful woman," Di Montezemolo said. "You must desire her, you must wait for her."
As a part of the Fiat-Chrysler conglomerate, Ferrari can also put some of its spare energies toward other brands, namely Maserati, for which it builds six-cylinder engines. And its executives outlined how the company would develop technologies like the Formula 1-based hybrid system in the LaFerrari to meet tougher emission standards.
But Di Montezemolo made clear that Ferrari would never break from the tradition of powerful gasoline engines on his watch, no matter the pressure: "We will never manufacture an electric car as long as I'm chairman."