NEW YORK - With three of its four car lines sold out for at least 18 months, Ferrari of North America is probably the envy of most ultraluxury brands. But even Ferrari's North American profits had been suffering because of the strong euro.
Maurizio Parlato, Ferrari of North America CEO, expects fatter profits this year as the dollar regains strength and a customizing program bears fruit.
For US buyers, Ferrari is promoting options ranging from custom colors and trim to fancy features, such as racing seats, red brake calipers and Bluetooth technology.
The average amount spent on customizing per vehicle has jumped from $1,500 (about E1,250) in 1999 to nearly $10,000, Parlato says.
To ensure a profit in North America, extra cars have been allocated. Ferrari plans to increase sales here to 1,500 units, from 1,440 last year - triple the number of vehicles it sold 10 years ago.
Ferrari will produce only 4,000 cars this year, and North America typically gets at least 30 percent of its annual output, Parlato says.
Hearts of owners
Why does Ferrari continue to have a mystique while supercars from rivals such as Lamborghini are struggling?
"Because we build cars that are unbelievable in terms of technology and performance, and we don't make them available to everybody," Parlato says. "We are still a small company fighting against the giants, and that is why we know the hearts of our owners."
Parlato likes taking the pulse of his buyers several times a week in Ferrari's showroom in New York City, just across the Hudson River from Ferrari and Maserati headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
The Ferrari-owned showroom opened in November. It is the carmaker's first factory-owned showroom in North America. It is on prime real estate along Park Avenue. Cars aren't sold from the location, but every Ferrari and Maserati model is there to seen and touched.
Parlato, who has been in the job for three years, lobbied hard for the showroom. He says the power and the money in and around New York City had to be tapped.
The 41-year-old Italian executive likes what he sees at his Park Avenue boutique: plenty of New York City big shots and lots of well-heeled tourists.
Fancy new stores
Two new Ferrari dealerships opened this year: Penske Wynn Ferrari Maserati in a Las Vegas resort and Ferrari Maserati of Silicon Valley in Redwood City, California.
Ferrari's 36 North American dealerships, 32 of which are in the US, have invested $80 million in their stores in the past five years because of the 2002 Maserati relaunch. Every Ferrari dealer added a Maserati franchise.
The Fiat group, which owns both brands, took away Ferrari's control of Maserati on June 1 and combined it with Alfa Romeo, which is expected to return to the US in about 2007.
Ferrari/Maserati dealers also will get the Alfa Romeo brand, says Parlato.
He says the relaunch of the less-expensive Maserati brand also is the reason Ferrari won't offer a vehicle priced less than $200,000.