Ferrari adds cashmere touch for super-rich drivers

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The Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorana on show at the annual Detroit car fair

The Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorana on show at the annual Detroit car fair

Ferrari has begun offering personal touches like cashmere-covered seats and gold-coloured exteriors for customers who find that cars like the $410,000 620-horsepower 599 GTB aren’t quite special enough.

The “tailor made” personalization program, which started last month, aims to add 20 percent to 60 percent to the price of a car as the Fiat unit looks to pad profit after capping deliveries, according to the Maranello, Italy-based company.

“Being different is important for Ferrari buyers as these cars are all about status,” said Rebecca Lindland, a IHS analyst in Norwalk, Connecticut. “It’s like showing up to a gala in the same dress - funny at first, annoying if it keeps happening.”

Ferrari is looking for new sources of profit as it limits sales to 7,000 vehicles annually to guard its elite appeal. The supercar maker anticipates reaching that mark this year after selling about 6,500 autos in 2010. The additional lift from the personalization program will help shore up Fiat, which is integrating Chrysler Group, as an economic slowdown threatens a turnaround at its money-losing European business.

Fiat leans on Ferrari as a source of cash to offset falling earnings in mass-market cars. The supercar unit may record an operating profit equivalent to 16.6 percent of sales in the third quarter, compared with a 1.3 percent margin at Fiat Auto, including the profitable Brazilian operations, Mediobanca analyst Massimo Vecchio estimates. Fiat is scheduled to post results on Oct 27. Ferrari’s operating profit rose 23 percent to €302m last year.

 “The exclusivity of the materials and the service level we provide call for a different price,” Nicola Boari, Ferrari’s head of product marketing, said in an interview last month. “The customer has a car that is 100 percent unique because it reflects his choices.”

Ferrari, the Italian automaker’s most profitable unit, wants to maintain the elite appeal of the “Cavallino rampante” supercars by ensuring scarcity, Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said last month. Sales will only exceed 7,000 if the waiting list extends beyond 18 months, he said. The “absolute limit” on production is 10,000 vehicles, Fiat Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne told Automotive News Europe.

The strategy contrasts with Porsche. The Stuttgart, Germany-based maker of the iconic 911 sports car aims to add a second sport-utility vehicle as it looks to double deliveries to at least 200,000 autos by 2018.

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