Ferrari: The Standard-Bearer for Exclusivity

By Paul Joseph

In the world of luxury, brand loyalty is the holy grail. With this in mind, brands go to great lengths to create a compelling back-story to their products, imbuing them with meaning beyond what can be seen and felt.

This ability to turn the retail process from an impassive transaction into an emotional experience is one that few have mastered better than Ferrari. The iconic Italian sports car maker has married a powerful brand identity with a strategic business model that ensures its clients return time and time again.

Crucial to this, according to Francesco Balli, Regional Manager for Ferrari North Europe, has been maintaining the company’s exclusivity while attracting new disciples into what he describes as the “Ferrari family”. The latter they help achieve through their various customisation programmes, which allow clients to add highly personalised touches to their car

“For us, exclusivity is all about the experience, and we want people to not only be customers but protagonists in the development of their car,' said Mr Balli, when we sat down with him at London’s historical Goucho Club.

“Every single customer can join us to define his or her dream car. The ‘Tailor Made’ programme allows customers to come to Maranello [home to Ferrari's Italian headquarters] and sit down with our Atelier team and decide every detail relating to the colours, the materials and even some of the technology of their car.”

The apex of Ferrari’s customisation service is its One-Off programmes, which goes beyond mere materials and colours and offers clients the chance to create a truly bespoke car. The entire process takes about eighteen months and Ferrari produces just two or three of these cars a year.

In fact, the One-Off programme is in a sense the Ferrari business model in microcosm. The company effectively operates on a ‘made to order’ basis, always producing one car less than the demand of the market. Consequently, while other brands are forever sitting on unsold stock, Ferrari has none. The beauty of this model is that it is self-perpetuating, with the brand’s exclusivity working organically to create constant fresh demand.

Mr Balli continued: “The exclusivity for Ferrari is extremely important because it’s the confirmation of the value for our customers. That is our first focus, our first approach. And how do we get to this exclusivity? By giving attention not only to the volume of production but to innovation and technology.”

The latest example of Ferrari’s enduring ability to push the innovation envelope is the second generation California T, which launched at the Geneva Motor Show with deliveries to the UK started in September.

“The California T is designed for our customers who love the brand, love the history of Ferrari, but ultimately want a car that is really a day-to-day car that meets all of their infotainment and device needs,” said Mr Balli.

“Despite the shape it is similar to the previous California, but driving it is a completely new technology, with a new twin turbo engine with a phenomenal torque which allows significantly more horsepower than its predecessor.

“Additionally, we worked on the back of the car which is lower compared to the previous one, and looks more aggressive and more sporty. I would say the truly unique element is the retractable hard top which, from what we hear from customers and the media, is seen as perfect. In summary, it looks fantastic, the performance is huge and the technology is masterful.”

The most notable aspect of this technology is the California T’s Apple CarPlay system which launched on the Ferrari FF at Geneva this year and will very soon be available on the entire Ferrari product range. In essence, it allows the car’s entire infotainment system to be viewed with the same interface as an Apple device – a feature that grows in importance when you learn that 90% of Ferrari customers own an iPhone or iPad.

“It means that you can forget your telephone in the car, leave it in the glove box, and you manage everything from navigation with google maps to music from inside the car as if you are looking at the screen of your device. First we had the iPhone then the iPad and now you have your car as part of your own personal world,” explained Mr Balli.

As well as its impressive progress when it comes to in-car features, Ferrari has also made great strides when it comes to green technology and in recent years have pioneered a stop/start system which they have dubbed “high emotion, low emission” and has enabled them to significantly cut CO2 emissions across their most recent models while maintaining the highest levels of performance.

Ultimately, however, it is retaining the emotional value of its products that will determine the future success of Ferrari, and Mr Balli is acutely aware of the challenges they face.

“This demands huge investment, a team that is extremely committed to improving and a constant assessment of the luxury market, not just the automotive industry but across design furniture, leather, fashion, music. Everything is an inspiration to do better,” he said.

“Our ambition is to satisfy our customers and ensure they feel something extremely different driving a Ferrari. And for us the purity of the product and the feeling of having a sensation that is unique to the brand, this famous Italian car maker, is the key.”

By Paul Joseph