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Ferrari boss Montezemolo says his future is fast cars--and fast trains

Wed, 08 Sep 2010

Ferrari S.p.A. Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo has pledged his future to the supercar brand, refuting speculation that he might quit to join Italy's government.

“In my future I see fast cars and fast trains--and no politics,” Montezemolo told Automotive News Europe in an interview at Ferrari's headquarters here.

Montezemolo, who, like Ferrari, has just turned 63, has been at the center of Italian press speculation that he could quit as chairman after giving up chairmanship of Fiat S.p.A., Ferrari's owner, in April.

Media outlets reported that Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi offered Montezemolo the post of Industry Minister in May. Last year Montezemolo started his own think tank, called Italia Futura (Italy Future). He downplays the political role of the body, which he created largely to boost Italy's image.

Montezemolo said he will continue to work at Ferrari for years to come, though he has not decided exactly how many.

“I want to shape the next product cycle at Ferrari to assure a bright future at a company that has been inextricably intertwined with my life,” he said.

Montezemolo is secretive about how he plans to reshape Ferrari's future product line, but said the brand's next limited-edition supercar, the heir to the F40, F50 and Enzo, will be the cornerstone. The model is due in 2012.

“That car will incorporate the state of the art of our knowledge in terms of increasing performances while reducing fuel consumption and emissions. It will then influence all Ferraris that appear after it,” he said.

The new model will have the gasoline-hybrid technology the company unveiled in March at the Geneva auto show. Derived from the kinetic energy recovery system Ferrari used in Formula One in the past season, the Hy-Kers hybrid cuts CO2 emissions by 35 percent.

The car will also begin a downsizing process previewed in 2007 by the Millechili concept.

Survived the crisis

Ferrari was almost immune to the global financial downturn. Last year its sales slipped just 4.5 percent to 6,235 units. The brand's operating profit fell by almost 30 percent to 245 million euros (about $311 million), but the company still had an operating margin of 13.8 percent of revenues. In the first half, Ferrari sold 3,200 cars, 2 percent more than the year before.

Montezemolo sees 2010 sales slightly above 2009, sustained by successful models such as the 458 Italia and the 599 GTO, and growth in China, where Ferrari sales were up 20 percent in the first half.

Montezemolo's influence on modern Ferraris is significant. More than 85,000 of the 141,000 Ferraris built since the carmaker was founded in 1947 were developed during his 23 years at the company.

While much is known of Montezemolo's passion for Ferrari, his involvement in the first privately owned high-speed train operator in Italy, NTV (Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori), is still obscure. NTV, which is funded by Italian entrepreneurs, will launch train services that will offer nine Italian cities fast rail connections in late 2011. The company's network will cover a large part of Italy.

“We want to offer a fast, premium train system,” Montezemolo said. "It is a challenging venture that will open high-speed transportation to competition with great benefits for all consumers.”

Although there is no direct connection between Ferrari and NTV, the trains will be painted in the rosso barchetta red color used on Ferrari racing cars in the 1950s.

By Luca Ciferri- Automotive News Europe