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CAR blog: how is Ferrari doing without Enzo?

Published: 18 September 2013

This month marks 25 years since the death of Enzo Ferrari. As you’re almost certainly aware, the last production Ferrari Enzo lived to see built was the F40 – a fitting swansong for the man who gave the world its most illustrious and recognised car brand. But, in the intervening quarter-century since ‘il Commendatore’ passed away, what’s been happening to Ferrari?

Ferrari in motorsport

Of the 15 drivers’ championship titles won by a Scuderia Ferrari driver, six have come following Enzo’s 1988 demise. Of course, that post-Enzo era record is mainly thanks to Michael Schumacher, who took five consecutive titles from 2000-2004. The other title was won by Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, with Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso coming close since, respectively denied by Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 title and the latter Red Bull dominance of one Sebastian Vettel.

Eight constructors’ titles have been won by Ferrari since 1988 – exactly half of its total haul since the Scuderia first entered Formula One in 1950. But, with nothing to show for their efforts since 2008, a brand which builds its entire ethos around racing technology for the road is in dire need of some F1 glory. The Scuderia appears to believe employing two world champions – one famously unanimated, the other infamously highly strung – will answer the Tifosi (and CEO Luca di Montezemolo’s) hunger for success. Click here to read CAR’s analysis of Kimi’s return to Maranello.

Although the factory produces dedicated GT racing cars for series such as the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and American Le Mans Series (ALMS), these only compete for GT2 class victories, rather than outright race wins. Therefore, a Ferrari hasn’t won a sportscar race proper since 1965, when the 250LM took a one-two finish, with a 275GTB finishing third. The F50 supercar almost morphed into a McLaren F1 LM and Mercedes CLK GTR rival in the mid-90s, but the project was canned to pour funds and resources into F1.

Ferrari’s road cars

In 1988, the Ferrari range looked like this: At the top of the tree was the 479bhp twin-turbo F40: a limited edition of 400 were promised, but in the end demand was so intense that Ferrari built 1315 of the 200mph supercars. The 1988-vintage two-seater GT model – ancestor to today’s F12 Berlinetta, was the side strake-tastic Testarossa, while the duty of V8 berlinetta was held up by the 328. There was no entry-level California equivalent, which remains Ferrari’s only front-engined V8 road car. Wanted a four-seater Ferrari in 1988? You’d have to settle for the unloved Mondial or a 412 GT (and its optional three-speed GM auto) – a far cry from today’s 650bhp V12 FF – though probably just as controversial, style-wise.

So, to the stats. In 1988, the average power output of a Ferrari road car stood at 347bhp. In 2013, the respective figure stands at 505bhp. Include the new sold-out hybrid LaFerrari in that equation and the figure jumps to 663bhp. And the 0-62mph sprint? An average of 5.7sec for the 1988 cars – and 3.3sec today. That’s progress.

Ferrari, like just about everyone, has to to bow to CO2 legislation – something not on Enzo’s radar. Customers can spec the HELE system on any current Ferrari – that’s High Emotion Low Emission, or stop/start, to you and I. As a result, the current range has an average combined economy figure of 18.5mpg, and a 314/km CO2 output. Yes, in an age where we barely raise an eyebrow at range extenders which claim 50g/km and 100mpg, those figures look, frankly, pants, but everything’s relative. It’s difficult to nail down accurate CO2 figures for the Eighties equivalents (they weren't mandatory tested), but it’s worth noting Ferrari claimed 18mpg for the Testarossa – only 0.8mpg less than its modern successor, the F12, officially scores today. Mind you, the contemporary Fandango has almost twice the power. You suspect Enzo would approve of the respective gains.

Ferrari as a business empire

In the final full year of Enzo Ferrari’s life (1987), his beloved brainchild sold a total of 3947 cars worldwide, of which 223 found UK homes. Immediately following his death, Ferrari sales dropped – not due to uncertainty over the brand’s future, but rather the effects of the early 1990s recession which hit all supercars – Bugatti’s EB110 and Jaguar’s XJ220 being classic cases in point. However, Ferrari has bounced back to an extra ordinary degree, posting record profits even in the midst of the 2009 downturn.

 In 2012, 675 Ferraris were sold in the UK, and though the brand is cutting production in an effort to maintain exclusivity, 2013 demand is already up on last years, with 415 units shifted in the first six months of this year alone. Global sales for 2012 reached 7318 units. Overall, profits are healthier to the tune of £116m (up 22%) despite a 2.8% cut in production. European waiting lists for brand new F12s and 458s currently range from 12-18 months.

Reflecting on Ferrari

There’s some undeniable symmetry to the Ferrari story since Enzo died. Enzo, the ‘big man. Big, fleshy nose. Big, loose mouth. Big, solid body’, as CAR magazine described him in a rare interview with old man Ferrari in August 1977. You can read the complete interview with the notoriously private Enzo by accessing the CAR archive here.

Just as Ferrari launched its turbocharging swansong on the eve of his death, forced induction is reportedly heading back into Prancing Horses, with the next California expected to utilise twin-turbo V8s as used in the Maserati Ghibili and Quattroporte sports salons. Ferrari is now, as then, suffering a dry period in the F1 doldrums. But it’s also back at the top of its game in the road car business, producing cars which are widely regarded as the best high-performance exotica on the market – and just about appeasing the questionable taste merchandise and theme park shenanigans. Now, what Enzo would make of that, we’d love to know…