- Hollis Johnson
Will Ferrari ever build an SUV? Everyone thought no, and CEO Sergio Marchionne famously said that he would deserve to be shot if the legendary Italian automaker took the truck plunge on his watch.
Rumors have swirled over the past two days that Ferrari is planning some sort of more versatile vehicle. The company’s second-quarter earnings provided Marchionne with a chance to address the rumors, in hilarious fashion.
On a call after earnings were announced, Morgan Stanley analysts Adam Jonas – who seemed depressed that Ferrari would contemplate an SUV – asked Marchionne to clarify his “shoot me” comments.
“I would deserve to be shot, if we didn’t allow Ferrari engineers to reinvent the vehicle to have some utilitarian [features], to travel through uncharted territory.”
He added, “It will probably happen, but it will happen Ferrari style.”
Marchionne said the utility space was too big and too inviting for Ferrari to completely avoid, so he as much as admitted that Ferrari is preparing to do something that isn’t a two-door sports car or grand-touring car. But he stressed that Ferrari hasn’t announced anything, taking a swipe at the media for running with the rumor.
Jonas then confessed that the whole idea of a Ferrari SUV made him sad. “Are you selling a tiny slice of Ferrari’s soul?” he asked?
“I have the same type of hallucinations on this issue as you have,” Marchionne replied. But he immediately noted that Ferrari’s biggest challenge is to leverage the power of brand without destroying exclusivity.
Jonas brought up the Porsche Cayenne, the influential SUV that the German carmaker rolled out over a decade ago, initially to complaints from enthusiasts. But the vehicle has been wildly successful. Would Ferrari follow that playbook?
“Hell no,” Marchionne said. “We couldn’t. That would be obscene. I’m terrified of losing our exclusivity.”
That seemed to ease Jonas’ mind. “I feel a little better,” he said. “But not a lot better.”