Ferrari Four: Arrogant, or a Sign of Economic Life?
Italian supercar maker's polarizing new model may signal an industry turnaround.
As it turns out, these people buy boats. Big boats, with helipads and submarine pens and multiple cranes for personal watercraft. And they do not stop buying them, even if the rest of the world's finances have become higgledy-piggledy. Apparently, there is a point where your wealth is such that the economy simply ceases to matter.
The supercar world is almost — not quite, but almost — like that.
Consider the Ferrari Four, aka the FF. This car, which Ferrari announced last week, will replace the comparatively staid 612 Scaglietti coupe. Like the 612, it features a front-mounted, high-output V12 engine; unlike the 612, it's a hatchback GT — the car industry prefers the ludicrously outdated and vague English term "shooting brake" — that features standard 4-wheel-drive and 651 horsepower. It looks -- well, it looks kind of odd.
Outlandish "wait-what-is-that?" supercars like this used to be the norm. Thanks to low development costs and lax safety regulations, small companies regularly used to produce all manner of esoteric high-performance machines. Now, most exotic cars resemble one another. Thanks to more restrictive government regulations, few niche manufacturers take chances anymore. The stakes are just too high and the customer base too small. And, traditionally, a tough economy plays hell with supercar sales — contrary to popular belief, most of the rich car buyers aren't quite at the "Monaco yachtsmen" level.
So what should we make of the FF? Like most Ferraris, the car is fast, complicated and pretty. But it also represents a roll of the dice. This is the first regular production Ferrari shooting brake, and the marque's first all-wheel-drive car. It's gifted with frivolous, polarizing looks and a price tag -- around $320,000 -- that will ward off cheapskates. It's not exactly the kind of car a tiny manufacturer offers when it's struggling. Or when the world outside of Monaco is broke.
This further proves that the Ferrari of late is a giant at the top of its game, a legendary juggernaut riding high. It isn't known for taking undue chances, and it doesn't take new models lightly. It's also traditionally kept its hand close to its chest in hard times. A massively expensive, deliberately weird production car that breaks new ground and may not go over well with the faithful means that change must be afoot.
There's a lesson here: Either the economy is recovering, and the car industry along with it, or Enzo's boys have finally gone off the deep end. Me, I vote the former, but that's just because I'm an eternal optimist. That, and I'm still saving up for the yacht.
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