Mythical, magic, unique: Ferrari turns 70 in style

An Italian Ferrari model car arrives on September 8, 2017 at the Corso Sempione in Milano as it makes its way to Maranello, the home of Ferrari, for a meeting of 500 vehicles to celebrate Ferrari's 70th anniversary. (AFP)
Updated 10 September 2017
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Mythical, magic, unique: Ferrari turns 70 in style

MILAN: It’s the black prancing horse’s 70th birthday and gleaming Ferraris are out in force in Italy this weekend to celebrate.
Some 500 sleek, purring sports cars are gathering in Milan on Friday before the festivities move to Modena, where founder Enzo Ferrari was born, and end with an exclusive party in Maranello, where Ferraris have been made since World War II.
“Ferrari is a mythical brand: it has had a fabulous track record in speed and represents the pinnacle of the sports car,” automotive historian and enthusiast Patrice Verges told AFP.
For luxury motor fanatics and punters alike, there is something “magic” about Ferraris and their distinctive sound.
“Having a Ferrari and being watched is part of the game,” Verges says.
It all started when Enzo Ferrari, a racing driver, formed the “Scuderia Ferrari” (“Ferrari Stable“) in 1929 and prepared and fielded Alfa Romeo racing cars.
It was not until 1947 that the first Ferrari (125 S) was born — designed by Ferrari, produced at the Maranello factory and bearing the brand’s symbol, a black horse on a yellow background, bordered by the colors of the Italian flag.
The stallion, rearing up on its back legs, its tail swept upwards, was chosen as a tribute to Francesco Baracca, a World War I Italian air force ace who used to paint a prancing horse on the side of his planes.
The pilot’s mother suggested Ferrari use it as a good luck symbol, and he added the canary yellow background as it was the color of his hometown of Modena.
The Ferraris soon took the luxury world by storm. The cars were, and still are, reserved for a “happy few” willing and able to shell out at least 150,000 euros ($180,000) — or over one million euros for limited series editions.
Patience is a must: Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne said last year the waiting list for a Ferrari 488 was three years.
The brand, which split from Fiat Chrysler (FCA) in 2015 and is now listed in Milan and New York, boasts enviable results: 3.1 billion euros turnover in 2016 for 8,014 cars delivered, and a net profit up 38 percent to 400 million euros.
Its success lies in its ability to combine “industrial craftmanship of the highest quality” with “an extremely close dialogue with its customers,” says Carlo Alberto Carnevale Maffe, professor of strategy at Milan’s Bocconi University.
The personalization options are extensive — from steering wheels, to seats and dashboards — and customers are welcome to visit the factory, where all requests are welcome as long as they don’t alter the car’s safety or engineering.
Carnevale Maffe is of the opinion that Ferraris have to be “earned.”
“You have to belong to the club. There are so many social climbers, nouveaux riche who want to be admitted but they are looked at with some suspicion,” he said.
Ferrari used to be “a brand for enthusiasts: it needed to be because its cars kept breaking down all the time, though of course no-one admitted it,” says Verges.
Today, “it’s more a mark of the wealthy middle class” who buy the motors as investments, he says.
The myth may have taken a hit, but the fact remains that the most expensive car ever sold at auction is a 1957 Ferrari 335 S Scaglietti, sold at auction in 2016 in Paris for 32 million euros.
On the circuits too, the oldest Formula One “stable” is still king. And it’s after the best birthday present of all, with driver Sebastian Vettel in with a chance of winning the world title against Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes.
After 68 seasons, the Scuderia holds an impressive track record of 228 Grand Prix victories, 16 Most Constructors’ Championships and 15 Most Drivers’ Championships.
Ferrari “is not a car factory,” it’s “a dream factory,” said Carnevale Maffe.


Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

Updated 18 September 2018
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Audi launches electric SUV in Tesla’s backyard, with assist from Amazon

SAN FRANCISCO: German luxury car brand Audi on Monday staged the global launch of a new electric sport utility vehicle on the home turf of rival Tesla Inc, and highlighted a deal with Amazon.com Inc. to make recharging its forthcoming e-tron models easier.
The Audi e-tron midsize SUV will be offered in the United States next year at a starting price of $75,795 before a $7,500 tax credit. It is one of a volley of electric vehicles coming from Volkswagen AG brands, as well as other European premium brands including Daimler-owned Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volvo Cars and Jaguar Land Rover.
All aim to expand the market for premium electric vehicles and also to grab share of that market from Palo Alto, California-based Tesla, which has had the niche largely to itself.
“I want Audi to be the number-one electric vehicle seller in America over the long term,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is also head of rocket company SpaceX, planned to mark the e-tron launch occasion by staging a SpaceX event in Los Angeles at roughly the same time on Monday evening as Audi’s unveiling.
Audi and parent Volkswagen are using the US launch of the e-tron SUV in mid-2019 to take aim at one obstacle to expanding electric vehicle sales — the lack of convenient ways to recharge their batteries.
Audi will partner with online retailer Amazon to sell and install home electric vehicle charging systems to buyers of the e-tron, the companies said on Monday. Amazon will deliver the hardware and hire electricians to install them through its Amazon Home Services operation.
Amazon’s partnership with Audi to provide home charging systems is the first time the online retailer has struck such a deal with an automaker, and signals a new front in Amazon’s drive to expand its reach into consumers’ homes beyond the presence of its Alexa smart speakers in living rooms and kitchens.
“We see charging installation as a very important business,” Pat Bigatel, director of Amazon Home Services, told Reuters at Audi’s launch event in San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Center.
Audi executives said home charging stations would cost about $1,000, depending on the home’s electrical system.
Tesla offers wall connectors for home charging at a $500 list price, and will arrange for installation, according to the company.
At the same time, Electrify America, a company funded by Volkswagen as part of its settlement of US diesel emission cheating litigation, plans to launch next year the next round of installations of public charging stations, Electrify America executives told Reuters.
Tesla has developed its own network of Supercharger charging stations with more than 11,000 chargers in North America. Electrify America plans to have 2,000 chargers installed by mid-June next year. Those will be open to any vehicle, and customers can swipe a credit card to recharge.
“We want to work with all” automotive brands, said Giovanni Palazzo, Electrify America’s chief executive.

Lifting the Curtain

Audi has been heralding the launch of the e-tron SUV for some time, but until Monday it had not shared many details of the vehicle.
The e-tron is electric, and has two electric motors — one in the front and one in the rear — driving all four wheels. The Hungarian factory building motors for the e-tron will start with a production pace equivalent to 200 vehicles a day, Audi officials said.
In Europe, the vehicle will use cameras instead of conventional mirrors to give drivers a view to the rear. That feature is still not approved by US regulators.
However, in many other respects the e-tron is a conventional, mainstream luxury SUV. It offers seating for five, and its length and wheelbase position it in the center of the market for midsize, five-passenger luxury SUVs such as the BMW X5. The e-tron is 5 inches (13 cm) shorter than the Tesla Model X, and it has conventional doors. The Model X uses vertically opening “falcon wing” doors.
The e-tron will have an advanced cruise-control system that can keep the car within a lane and maintain a set distance behind another vehicle, but the system will be designed so that drivers must keep hands on the wheel.
Audi officials said they do not have official range estimates for the e-tron SUV under US testing procedures. The e-tron’s 95 kWh battery has less capacity than the 100 kWh battery used in the Tesla Model X 100D model, but more than the base Model X 75D.
The Model X 100D is rated at 295 miles (475 km) of range by the US government.