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For luxury carmakers, exclusivity is key. If just anyone or everyone can putter around town in one of their vehicles, then a primary element of their appeal disappears. And there is no carmaker more luxurious than Ferrari. Throughout its history, the company has held fast to its founder’s recommendation that each year’s production volume should be one fewer car than people want to buy. This intentional scarcity keeps Ferraris aspirational, idealized, expensive, and available only the wealthy few.

So what is it doing introducing an SUV, that bastion of suburban life?

The new Purosangue model will have four doors and a front-loaded engine, though outsiders know little else about it. Slated to be introduced in 2022, the SUV has been kept under tight wraps. But even the little information available has gotten car purists deeply upset, worried that Ferrari will lose its edge, its appeal, and its reputation for immaculate, incomparable cars.

By the same token, the line expansion should not come as a complete surprise. In recent years, Ferrari has been steadily creeping toward more models, as well as rising production numbers. In 2019, it sold 9.5 percent more cars than it ever had in its history. That still meant only a little over 10,000 vehicles, but it reflected a notable increase. Whereas once people fought even to get on a waiting list for the potential to buy a Ferrari, the company now appears to be ramping up production to get more people behind the finely tuned wheels.

Furthermore, it recently introduced the Roma model, with distinctly non-Ferrari features: an adjustable magnetic suspension that makes for a comfortable ride, space in the trunk for luggage, and a starting price tag of “just” $222,620. That number may seem like a joke, but it’s remarkably affordable, compared with the prices traditionally charged for popular Ferrari models. It also is nearly negligible when considered next to the $70 million someone paid for a 1963 GTO in a recent auction.

Furthermore, Ferrari has shown its awareness of automotive trends by introducing a plug-in hybrid model called the Stradale. With the combination of a gasoline-powered V-8 engine and three parallel electric motors, the Stradale might limit emissions, but it also is the fastest road car available in Ferrari’s lineup.

Still, reactions to the SUV are louder and more dismayed than to any other proposal Ferrari has issued before. An SUV might just seem less luxurious and fabulous, because of its association with soccer practices and baby seats. But for Ferrari, a limited growth strategy seems to be in its sights. It wants to appeal to wider markets, and sell more cars, without going so far as to undermine its own luxury appeal. The cars, regardless of their body type, are still fast, responsive, and perfectly engineered.

But an SUV? Really?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why would a traditional luxury sport car brand like Ferrari enter the SUV market?
  2. Is the Purosangue likely to be successful? If so, what are some of the likely long-term implications for Ferrari?

Source: Lawrence Ulrich, “An S.U.V.? Ferrari Sees the Writing on the Road,” The New York Times, January 14, 2021