Ferrari CEO says a utility vehicle would not hurt brand or margins

Supercar manufacturer had previously ruled out SUVs

Ferraris are displayed during an event to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Ferrari in Birmingham, Britain July 28, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples

MILAN — An expansion of Ferrari’s lineup into utility vehicles would not compromise the Italian carmaker’s exclusive status nor its luxury profit margins, Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said last week.

Marchionne has repeatedly ruled out following rivals such as Volkswagen-owned Lamborghini into sport utility vehicles (SUVs).

But recent press reports have said the sports car maker is considering developing a four-seat utility vehicle to boost profits, unnerving some investors concerned it could weaken the brand.

After being spun-off from Fiat Chrysler, Ferrari has sought to show it can increase profits without the backing of its parent and improve sales.

The group has released several quarters of record earnings, helped by the launch of a number of special edition models.

But Marchionne said Ferrari was now approaching the limit of the number of cars it can produce from its current range without weakening their exclusive appeal, and needed to look beyond.

The manager, who is set to leave the company in 2021, said if the carmaker ever made a utility vehicle it would be “Ferrari style” for “the selected few” and not to compete with the likes of Porsche.

Its claim to fame would not be “being able to climb rocks,” Marchionne told analysts on a conference call, adding the board had yet to decide whether to go down that road.

“Whatever it is, it will be of the same caliber as anything else we’ve done,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ferrari reported a 24 percent rise in second-quarter adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) and a 14 percent increase in quarterly sales, both in line with expectations.

Revenues were helped by sales of 12-cylinder models such as the GTC4Lusso and the LaFerrari Aperta hybrid convertible.

The 812 Superfast, Ferrari’s most powerful model to date that has yet to arrive on the market, already has a waiting list beyond 2018, the company said.

Ferrari is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year with a series of tailor-made cars, all inspired by iconic models from its past. Overall, the group plans to ship around 8,400 vehicles in 2017, getting closer to the 9,000 goal it has set for 2019.

The company has also been trying to broaden its appeal beyond drivers attracted by the technological prowess of its eight-cylinder and 12-cylinder models.

Marchionne said the company needed to go after customers drawn to the brand’s style rather than the power of engines.

“There are more people that would buy nonextreme versions of Ferrari than those that will buy extreme versions,” he said, adding this move did not mean compromising on price.

The GTC4Lusso T, a four-seater with a smaller V8 turbo engine, was marketed as “designed to be driven every day,” raising expectations of other such releases from the Maranello, Italy-based factory.

“We see volume expansion as the most positive and exciting thread to the bull case,” Evercore ISI analyst George Galliers said in a note.

Marchionne said Ferrari would unveil a new strategy to 2022 early next year and that it would give an indication on how it would expand the luxury brand beyond cars.

Milan-listed shares closed down 3.45 percent at 89.6 euros as investors had hoped for a lift to full-year guidance. The uncertainty around the impact of the product expansion on margins also weighed on sentiment, traders said.