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Ferrari’s New CEO Eases Off of Goals Inherited from Marchionne

Sept. 18, 2018
Italian carmaker broadens product range with SUV, hybrid plans.

Ferrari NV’s new chief executive officer tempered some of his predecessor’s most ambitious goals, softening a key profit target while delaying a long-awaited hybrid SUV by a couple of years.

Ferrari now expects earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization to be in a range of 1.8 billion (US$2.1 billion) to 2 billion euros in 2022, CEO Louis Camilleri told investors on Tuesday. Ferrari will start selling a planned SUV called the “Purosangue” -- or thoroughbred -- by then, the company said as it briefed investors on its five-year development plan.

The plans represent a modest pullback from the goals of longtime former CEO Sergio Marchionne, who passed away suddenly in July, just days after Camilleri took over. Marchionne said in February that Ferrari was targeting 2 billion euros in EBITDA no later than 2022. He also had promised the new SUV -- Ferrari’s first as it seeks to broaden its lineup and reach a wider customer base -- would arrive by 2020.

The revisions cast a pall over an otherwise upbeat presentation, which included new cars and a focus on hybrid engines. The stock briefly dropped as much as 3.7% -- the most intraday since Aug. 1, when Camilleri in his first days on the job called Marchionne’s five-year profit goal “aspirational.” Camilleri, a former cigarette-company executive, is under pressure to prove he can keep Ferrari delivering for investors without its legendary former CEO.

The stock bounced back after Camilleri increased Ferrari’s dividend-payout ratio, announced a 1.5 billion-euro share buyback plan and promised even-higher profit margins. At its intraday low, the decline was the most since Aug. 1, when Camilleri stumbled out of the gate in his first appearance as CEO.

The profit goal is “ambitious but doable,” Camilleri said, as he unveiled plans to add electric power to more than half Ferrari’s lineup. The plan to build its first-ever sports-utility vehicle highlights how even a manufacturer long synonymous with high-performance gasoline cars is going with the times to meet its ambitious growth targets.

The SUV delay “is to get it perfect,” Camilleri said.

About 60% of total production will have a hybrid engine by 2022, the company said. For any purist Ferrari fan worried about that new direction, there was also a taste of what Ferrari does best: the carbon-fiber, 810-horsepower Monza charged with a V-12 engine and in one-seat and two-seat versions.

The stock was up 0.7% to 113.70 euros at 2:06 p.m. in Milan. Ferrari has gained about 30% this year, making it the second-best performer in the Stoxx 600 Automobiles & Parts Index in 2018, behind Peugeot SA.

While the Monza is part of an ultra-rare, ultra-expensive crop of special editions, it’s a niche that’s important for carmakers like Ferrari and rivals like Lamborghini: It helps burnish their high-performance credentials and guarantees a buzz with prospective buyers and fans alike, while helping the bottom line because margins on these cars are even higher than with the already-expensive standard edition models.

The Monza is heir to the iconic Barchetta model, according to the company. The price will be released at the Paris auto show next month, though it will likely break through the 1 million-euro barrier like previous special editions. The Monzas have already been assigned to some of Ferrari’s most loyal clients, who had a preview of the car last night

Between next year and 2022, there will be 15 new model launches, and the average retail price for cars will increase “significantly,” according to Ferrari’s head of sales, Enrico Galliiera. One notably departure from its high-powered heritage will be the introduction of smaller V-6 engines, which were also announced at the investor meeting.

The Purosangue will meet an increasingly crowded field of ultra-luxury or high-performance SUVs: Lamborghini has the Urus, Rolls-Royce the Cullinan, and Bentley the Bentayga. A few rungs lower on the price ladder, there’s the Maserati Levante and the Jaguar F-Pace, while Mercedes-Benz just upgraded its G Wagon, which -- despite its rugged no-frills appearance -- commands a luxury price tag.

Still, Ferrari was careful not to market the car as just another SUV.

“I abhor hearing SUV in the same sentence as Ferrari," Camilleri told investors at the carmaker’s headquarters in Maranello, Northern Italy. "As a die hard Ferrarista, I was a little skeptical when the concept was first voiced at the board. Having now seen the wonderful design and the extraordinary features I am a hugely enthusiastic supporter."

By Tommaso Ebhardt 

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Licensed content from Bloomberg, copyright 2016.

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