Ferrari plugs into hybrid
Emissions the target, writes KEVIN HEPWORTH
PERFORMANCE superstar Ferrari is pouring more than half its research and development investment into planning for hybrid-electric technology across its range by 2015.
Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa says the shift in emphasis from safety to fuel and emissions efficiency is the biggest challenge the company faces for its super-performance vehicles. ‘‘What we cannot change is the character of the cars and that is the real challenge,’’ he says. ‘‘If I look at the investment we are doing today on research and development then more than 50 per cent is on emissions. In the past it was safety — now it is emissions.’’
Felisa concedes that the company’s understanding of hybrid technology is in its infancy, but huge resources are being poured into it.
‘‘We are running in Maranello a 599 with hybrid technology, that we have already said,’’ Felisa says. ‘‘Hybrid is a very big idea and we have to understand it. We are having a very good — a very expensive — exercise in F1 and we are looking at how we can transfer that technology (to road cars).’’
Ferrari’s target, Felisa says, is to utilise hybrid technology for benefits to economy, emissions and performance — a goal in which he sees no conflict.
‘‘We will have to have some hybrids in the models for fuel consumption, that is clear,’’ he says.
‘‘You can use hybrid to improve consumption or you can use it to improve performance. Certainly for some models we will use hybrid to improve consumption, but in others it will be to enhance performance.’’
One road Felisa is adamant that Ferrari will never travel is electric vehicle technology.
‘‘I think the noise from the exhaust is something that must be on our cars,’’ he says.
Though hybrid technology is the focus for the mid-term, it is the economic crisis that occupies the company’s immediate attention.
Ferrari sales were down 3.9 per cent in the crucial US market last year but, Felisa says, were stable in Europe and improved in the emerging markets of Eastern Europe, AsiaPacific and the Middle East.
Last year in Australia Ferrari sold 163 cars, 12.4 per cent up on 2007. But for the first two months of this year sales are down more then 60 per cent.
‘‘We agree that this (economic crisis) is too big to go away quickly,’’ Felisa says.
‘‘We are trying to maximise the financial result for the company. What we will never do is compromise our product strategy.’’