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CAR interviews Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa (2011)

Tue, 11 Oct 2011 00:00:00 -0700

This week CAR is publishing a string of interviews with Ferrari management. Today we speak to Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa, a trained engineer who now runs Ferrari day-to-day. CAR’s October 2011 issue – on sale now – contains a VIP tour of Ferrari and interviews with the company’s top brass: president di Montezemolo, Ferrari CEO and engineer Amedeo Felisa and design chief Flavio Manzoni.

We covered so many fascinating topics that some great material could have finished up on the cutting room floor. Instead we’ll publish the full transcripts of the interviews this week. Read on for the full conversation with Felisa, and for the pictures of our access all areas visit, pick up the October issue of CAR (free digital preview here).

CAR: What did you make of the recent British tests pitching the 458 Italia against the McLaren 12C?

Amedeo Felisa: ‘We have very good results especially because it was UK journalists, we were expecting some comment veering in the direction of the McLaren. We were surprised.’

Do you really think the British media lack objectivity?

‘Well, only you British can find a certain level of performance in Aston Martins!’

Ferrari recently commissioned 50 design schools from around the world to design the hypercar of 2025. What did you make of the results?

‘This was the second time Ferrari has done such a competition. Last time the brief was more general and we got [a wide-ranging] perception of Ferrari from young people: some were speaking of F1 cars, some sedans, GT and so on. Perhaps our brief was too specific this time. We asked creative people: ‘think of the Ferrari [hypercar] 20 years from now’. It’s interesting to get the mind of people who are not connected [with Ferrari], what they think of the future for this special brand. The young often speak of green cars, for example.’

What other trends did you see?

‘The students concentrated on hyper technological performance cars. That’s probably the area where we have enough information and ideas!’

Ferrari has just launched the 458 Spider at Frankfurt. What can we expect from this car?

‘The 458 Spider is different to the 430 Spider, it has a rigid hard top. We decided several years ago that the Spider’s future was in that direction. Now it’s easier to make the development of the rigid hard top that in the past was really difficult; the technology is now in the hands of the designers. The problem in the past was the investment, the cost, due to the different linkage between the top and the body was very difficult, it needed lots of tests and tooling to prepare that. Now with new technology and our suppliers, we can do it. The top is totally is different from the California’s: it’s not as complex and the 458 Spider’s is two piece. Easier to move, quicker to open and close, and [needs less] space. I think it’s the first Spider with a rigid hard top [on a mid/rear engined car].’

Which roof supplier did you use?


How much of a weight penalty is there over the canvas roof 430 Spider?

‘More or less the weight increase is close to what we’ve had in the past, [perhaps] a little better. This is important because everyone expects a rigid hard top to have a higher weight and that’s not the case. It’s a good result because it’s not easy to engineer. It’s very clever.’

Does the roof retract on the move?

‘Some manufacturers add that [feature] but we don’t understand why you’d want to open or close it when you’re driving.’

It’s very useful in the UK, with our schizophrenic weather...

‘But you can stop the car. Frankly speaking that feature is not really adding value to the customer. It’s technically feasible but we think it’s not that interesting.’

How long does the roof mechaism take?

‘Fourteen seconds. Three-quarters of the car is like the coupe except the rear deck is different. On the coupe we have the glass [window] at the back, but here we have decided on a diferent style. In some respects it won’t exactly be the Spider of the coupe as the back part is different. [So far] we’ve had good sucess with all the people we’ve presented the car to.’

So it weighs the same as the coupe?

‘We still have about 50kg more than on the Coupe. But the impact on performance is very low. The character of the Spider customer is different, maybe they’re not expecting as much performance as the coupe. The customer will like to drive and uyse the car in a quick way, but he’s not asking for the ultimate performance like the ones who buy the coupe.’

Do lots of Ferrari customers have both Spider and fixed-head?

‘In the past, 10-15% of customers bought both. Normally we have more customers for the Spider, especially in the US, our best market. In the UK we sell more Spiders than coupes; in Italy we prefer the coupe. The handling is very close; in some ways, the Spider is more comfortable than the coupe. The customer [still] wants to have the performance but they want the open air feeling more than the best timed lap at Fiorano. It’s a bit softer but you have to look very closely to feel that. Stiffness of chassis is diferent but you have enough stiffness to get the good dynamics. The Spider has enough stiffness [for this kind of car, and convertible] customers do not like to have the same damper rigidity as the coupe’s.’

By Phil McNamara