Despite earlier denials, Ferrari is now moving closer to producing what could be considered a crossover-type vehicle after comments made by one of the automaker's senior executives.
IHS Markit perspective
- Significance: Ferrari is now moving closer to producing what could be considered a crossover-type vehicle after comments made by CEO Sergio Marchionne.
- Implications: This would appear to be a volte-face for the sports-car manufacturer when taken against earlier comments by its senior executives, although Marchionne has been keen to point out that the company will seek to make a significant distinction compared to rivals in that space.
- Outlook: We may find out further about this vehicle when the brand announces a new strategic plan, expected in early 2018, which could result in its global deliveries surpassing a self-imposed 10,000 units per annum level.
Ferrari appears to be moving closer to producing what could be considered a crossover-type vehicle, following comments made by chief executive officer (CEO) Sergio Marchionne at the announcement of the brand's second-quarter results last week. The senior executive was quoted by Autocar as stating, "I think that if we allow the Ferrari engineers to reinvent the concept of a vehicle that has some utilitarian features, I think the answer is, it will probably happen, but it will happen Ferrari style. And Ferrari has been known historically for being able to redefine and define automotive segments. But I don't want it to be a UV [utility vehicle]– I want it to be what Ferrari thinks is appropriate. But no decision has been made yet." He was further quoted by Dow Jones Institutional News as saying, "If there was a Ferrari-badged vehicle that looked like a BMW or even a Bentley, I think I'd deserve to be shot." Nevertheless, he noted that market for large luxury cars could not be ignored, but that any new model would have to be something that "doesn't sell Ferrari's soul."
The comments follow on from various outlets suggesting that the automaker was looking down this previously unexplored path. Bloomberg News reported earlier the same week that the company is considering a "utility vehicle" as part of a forthcoming expansion plan. However, a more comprehensive article in the UK's CAR Magazine has stated that such a vehicle has already been given the codename F16X. This is derived from the F166 codename given to the next-generation FF/GTC4Lusso on which it is said to be based, and which will use a new aluminium architecture that will be shared across its range with the flexibility for front- and mid-engine configurations. Features that have been suggested for the next-generation FF/GTC4Lusso include a longer wheelbase to improve interior space, as well as new powertrain options.
The publications suggest that these initiatives will help with the development of F16X, which will be "more of a long-roofed coupé with a four-door layout but using coach doors at the rear." This is said to limit the emphasis on them while at the same time improving rear passenger access. These rear doors are also said to feature complex hinges and power assistance.
On the powertrain front, it is thought that this could be the first application of some degree of electrification on a non-limited production Ferrari model. It would combine the automaker's 3.9-litre turbocharged V-8 engine with an electric motor module between the engine and eight-speed transmission. Using an 8kWh battery pack, it is expected to offer a power boost of around 160-bhp and 221 lb/ft of torque on top of that produced by the conventional internal combustion engine (ICE). However, it is not expected to be offered with a V-12 option, nor come with rear-wheel drive only.
Outlook and implications
A product move in this direction would be a significant shift for the brand, which has previously been steadfast in its objections to a vehicle in the highly popular sport utility vehicle (SUV) category. Indeed, Marchionne said, "We won't make an SUV. You have to shoot me first" when asked about the possibility during early 2016. More recently, Ferrari's commercial boss Enrico Galliera told Autocar in June, "We are not producing an SUV, because an SUV is not a sports car – it can be fast, but it's not a sports car. We are not producing a four-door because, while a four-door can be fast, it's not a sports car." He added, "Ferrari has to remain consistent, doing what we know to do, which is delivering cars that are able to deliver emotion. Sports cars."
Nevertheless, despite the comments that have been made by senior Ferrari executives against a traditional SUV, the crossover space is a broader church and the opportunities presented by a model offering more practicality and utility may hold some attraction. It has already experimented with a push in this direction with its FF/GTC4Lusso. This was a break from its previous front engine V-12 engine grand touring models in offering a more accessible luggage compartment and four-wheel drive, and these features have not been detrimental to sales. A vehicle that evolved these features, with potentially greater accessibility to the rear seats could offer further benefits in terms of both volume and sales revenues for the company (and the latter would certainly not be unwelcome to its shareholders). Furthermore, although the issue of emissions has been raised with regards to raising sales further, the introduction of a degree of electrification could well be a way of introducing such a vehicle while maintaining the core attributes of its pure sports car family. This may also make it a more viable opportunity to widen its sports car range to include a less powerful "Dino-like" model that has previously been speculated about and has not been dismissed by Marchionne. However, this would be likely to take it beyond its currently self-imposed annual sales limit of 10,000 units.
If Ferrari does enter the crossover space, it would join a growing number of luxury brands in doing so. The Volkswagen (VW) Group has been leading the way with the Bentley Bentayga; this will be followed by the Lamborghini Urus, which is set to be revealed before the end of the year. Furthermore, Rolls-Royce is close to revealing its own project in this space, although it too has been keen to distance itself from the phrase SUV, referring to Project Cullinan as an "all-terrain, high-sided vehicle." Alongside the Lamborghini, perhaps the closest watched player in this space for Ferrari will be Aston Martin and its production DBX, which could be the closest to what Ferrari might be planning if it uses its own architecture as expected.
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