Ferrari has begun offering personal touches such as cashmere-covered seats and gold-coloured exteriors for customers who find that cars like the $410,000 620-horsepower 599 GTB aren't quite special enough.
The ‘tailor made' personalisation programme, which started last month, aims to add 20 per cent to 60 per cent to the price of a car as the Fiat unit looks to pad profit after capping deliveries, according to the Maranello, Italy-based company.
"Being different is important for Ferrari buyers as these cars are all about status," said Rebecca Lindland, a IHS analyst in Norwalk, Connecticut. "It's like showing up to a gala in the same dress — funny at first, annoying if it keeps happening."
Ferrari is looking for new sources of profit as it limits sales to 7,000 vehicles annually to guard its elite appeal. The supercar maker anticipates reaching that mark this year after selling about 6,500 autos in 2010. The additional lift from the personalisation programme will help shore up Fiat, which is integrating Chrysler Group LLC, as an economic slowdown threatens a turnaround at its money-losing European business.
Fiat leans on Ferrari as a source of cash to offset falling earnings in mass-market cars. The supercar unit may record an operating profit equivalent to 16.6 per cent of sales in the third quarter, compared with a 1.3 per cent margin at Fiat Auto, including the profitable Brazilian operations, Mediobanca analyst Massimo Vecchio estimates. Fiat is scheduled to post results on October 28. Ferrari's operating profit rose 23 per cent to €302 million last year.
"The exclusivity of the materials and the service level we provide call for a different price," Nicola Boari, Ferrari's head of product marketing, said in an interview last month. "The customer has a car that is 100 per cent unique because it reflects his choices."
Ferrari, the Italian automaker's most profitable unit, wants to maintain the elite appeal of the "Cavallino rampante" supercars by ensuring scarcity, Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said last month.
Sales will only exceed 7,000 if the waiting list extends beyond 18 months, he said. The "absolute limit" on production is 10,000 vehicles, Fiat Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne told Automotive News Europe.