Racing Ferraris in the Rain
Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., when Ferrari of San Francisco organized an event driving Ferrari 458 Italias for a few dozen clients, would-be clients and one fortunate journalist. The result? Thanks to that rain, one of the most memorable driving days ever.
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But these are tough economic times, and Ferrari is feeling the heat along with the rest of the auto world. As a result, the fabled firm from Maranello is taking a two-pronged approach to keeping customers happy. The first is to create vehicles that actually conform to their clients’ lifestyles; with its folding hardtop, the California is aimed squarely at the women in the family, while the genuine 2+2 seating in the forthcoming-if-oddly shaped, four-wheel-drive FF has designs on marque faithful who have children and want to go skiing.
“We are providing consumable luxury now, not just toys,” says Greg Minor, president of Ferrari of San Francisco, whose terracotta-roofed dealership looks as if it was air-lifted out of the Tuscan countryside (in fact, it was for many years the only U.S. dealership owned by Ferrari). “The California is a particularly big hit for us. Women who wouldn’t consider heading to a track in one of our other models will gladly hop in a California and drive away.”
Minor, who used to run Boardwalk Ferrari in Dallas, says another challenge is posed by the fact that Boomers are thinking twice about discretionary spending because of the economy. Meanwhile, the Gen X crowd (those born between 1965 and 1976) is simply a much smaller group, some 50 million compared with 80 million Boomers. “Those of us in the high-end markets have a customer pool that’s just shrunk by almost 50 percent,” says Minor. “That means we need to find new ways to get people excited about what we are selling.”