Going into a supercar showroom is different.
Not only because there’s no sausage sizzle out the front, or balloons, or wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube men, tube women or tube others, or because the coffee is barista-made Italian espresso rather than Nespresso, or because the salespeople are called Flavio and Gianna rather than Kev and Shirl, or because the chairs are Poltrona Frau rather than Fantastic Furniture.
No, it’s because the place smells of money and the stock looks like the Warhols, the Twomblys, the Richters, the Hirsts and the Basquiats in the Brandhorst Museum.
There are only a few in Australia. Dutton Garage in Richmond is one. Porsche Centre Melbourne another. In Adelaide there’s Michael McMichael Motors. In the Emerald City there’s the Classic Throttle Shop and Phil McCarroll’s Ferrari Sydney (it’s really called Ferrari Maserati but, as we all know, Masers are only for people who can’t afford Fezzers).
Phil started in the non-luxury car business in the non-luxury town of Cooma and at one stage had a Toyota dealership and competed against his wife, Kelva, who sold Fords. Anyway, Phil, a legend in the car caper and the doing good department, has lots of luxury dealerships and ordinary dealerships that sell Fiat Chrysler products such as Fiats and Jeeps.
Keep this to yourself but, in a great example of car marketing madness, Fiat Chrysler is doing a $70bn merger with the Peugeot Citroen company and the new company will be called, wait for it, Stellantis! The French company’s website says Stellantis is rooted. Sorry, I missed the rest. It says: “Stellantis is rooted in the Latin verb ‘stello’ meaning ‘to brighten with stars’.” I think it is a reference to Atlantis, the mid-Atlantic island that suddenly sunk into the ocean. Which will probably happen when you mix Italians and French persons in the one company.
Anyway, I was in the Fezzer showroom because, for the first time, a car company had invited me to something that didn’t involve lawyers and judges. Well, I was a few days late. I missed the official launch, but I did get the free sit in the Roma’s orgasmic white leather seats and a free look at the engine. The Roma comes out of Ferrari’s new strategy. (On Friday, shares were selling for an all-time record corona don’t care price of $250.)
Lucky Lou Camilleri and the boys on the exec team, well there are 12 boys and one woman (in guess what role? Yup, PR), reckon there are 18 million high-net-worth individuals in the world and only .005 per cent of them own a Fezzer. You can see where this is going. It’s the old Coopers China strategy. There are 1.4 billion people in China and each one bought only one bottle of Coopers Sparkling etc.
Most of those really rich people don’t want a real sports car. They want something like an Aston Martin (which late this week admitted that it had under-reported last year’s steep losses) that they can drive to Sant’ Eustachio Il Caffe before they pretend to be Marcello Mastroianni or Anita Ekberg or both and head over to the Trevi to wade into the fountain in a ballgown, splashing around and then have their partner wade in as well and smooch, leading to Italian horizontal folk dancing. And they don’t want to pay $100k or so extra for a sports Ferrari like the Tributo or the Lusso.
Ferrari wants to extend its product range more in the GT class (cruise to Dolce Vita Cafe in the Woodcroft Shopping Centre, 201 Bains Road, Morphett Vale) than the sports class. And unfortunately, they want the fleet to be 60 per cent hybrid. So, expect 10 new car launches in the next few years.
The most powerful brand in the world has the most pricing power in the world (30 per cent margins) so an entry level Portofino is “only” $400k and the Roma starts at $410k. The Roma is aimed at Porker Panamera and Aston (both around $400k) drivers. Of course, like all good supercars the retail price is only the beginning. Look to pay around $500k-plus for a Roma on the road.
The Roma is a stunningly beautiful car without the usual Ferrari “look at what I’m driving” shout. It takes some of its design cues from both brands. It has an Aston Martin shape (but with a baby shark front) and Porker spoiler and back seats (good for the Seven Dwarfs but they all won’t be Happy). Obviously the interior designers are in long relationships or have done the Targa (Italian for large wooden shield) with the old bloke and me.
The driver and co-driver or special friend sit in separate cells, divided by a large luxury leather and Alcantara barrier that should prevent most forms of physical abuse and, unfortunately, any chance of putting La Dolce Vita into practice while in the car. The sound system can be tuned to tune out chatty passengers. Of course, the real reason to buy a Fezzer is because of the exhaust note. No other manufacturer has been able to match a noise that turns otherwise strong men, women and others into jelly as the Modena masterpiece burbles its way along Wellington Street, Mosman Park.
The instrument display is a work of video art. All you need to know is packed on to a giant 40cm screen where you can watch Hamo’s Merc make mincemeat of the Ferraris tomorrow at the British GP. Of course, Mexico’s Sergio Perez won’t be in the saddle because he has a corona. But the display is a problem for me. Like many cars now it’s so involving (read distracting) that it could be dangerous.
Bottom line: this is a beautiful supercar that eats the Panamera and the top-of-the-line Astons but, if it was me, I’d buy the Tributo (forget the awful-looking breadvan Lusso) or spend somewhere in the low $300k for a 458.