There are SUVs, CUVs and, soon, there will be an FUV. And before you try to guess what that means, Sergio Marchionne calls it the Ferrari Utility Vehicle – though considering the disdain some of the brand’s gold chained owners often display, you might come up with a different interpretation.
Rumors of a Ferrari sport-utility vehicle have been circulating for some time, and after dropping some earlier hints, Marchionne made it absolutely official during a series of appearances and conversations at the North American International Auto Show this week.
The executive, who heads both Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the Ferrari brand it spun off two years ago, suggested that we could see the new hyper-ute by sometime next year or into 2020, emphasizing his intent for it to be the world’s fastest utility vehicle.
Separately, Marchionne hinted that Ferrari may be giving serious consideration to adding an electric vehicle to its line-up, adding that, “If there’s an electric supercar to be built, Ferrari will build it first.”
The idea of Ferrari building either an electric vehicle or an SUV might have seemed sacrilegious until recently, but both follow trends that are rapidly reshaping the automotive market worldwide.
In the U.S., in particular, utility vehicles of all form accounted for about half of all new vehicle sales in 2017 and continue to gain momentum. A number of luxury makers, including direct Ferrari competitors, have already weighed in. Bentley’s best-selling model is the Bentayga, for example. Aston Martin is working up the DBX ute. And on Monday night Lamborghini unveiled its own, the Urus sport-utility vehicle during a splashy event in Detroit.
Lambo threw down the gauntlet, claiming Urus will be the world’s fastest SUV, with the 650 horsepower beast launching from 0 to 60 in just 3.4 seconds, and with a top speed of 189 mph.
FCA already has two high-line brands that have been vying for the title, Maserati first to market with the Levante, and Alfa Romeo more recently launching the Stelvio and then the extreme version, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio. But Marchionne made it clear Ferrari wouldn’t settle back and let those two Italian rivals quibble over the performance crown, adding that whatever the prancing pony brand comes up with, “it has to drive like a Ferrari.
That’s a tall order, though the latest luxury utes, the Stelvio, in particular, are winning solid reviews for delivering more sports car-like rides.
Exactly what Ferrari has in the works isn’t clear. The FUV, said Marchionne, will be “whatever Ferrari thinks a utility vehicle will look like.”
(Lamborghini says new Urus will soon have companion model. Click Here for the story.)
Might that include more than two doors and a liftgate? Not all that long ago, the CEO promised the brand’s purists that he would never approve a vehicle with more than two doors. That even included the otherwise station wagon-like Lusso model. There are, of course, two door utes, so at least Ferrari could stay true to its heritage on at least that point.
There were plenty of skeptics who thought that a luxury SUV was an oxymoron not that many years ago, especially among performance brands. Then came the Porsche Cayenne, which quickly became the brand’s best-selling product line. The same is true at Bentley, and Alessandro Farmeschi, Lamborghini’s chief operating officer, told TheDetroitBureau.com Monday that the Urus “make up half of our sales in 2018, over 4,000 (vehicles).”
Since forcing out former Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo, Marchionne has rapidly raised the brand’s self-imposed production cap, now set at 10,000. He could easily do that again with the launch of an SUV.
As to adding an electric vehicle, Ferrari wouldn’t be the first in its class to get there, either. Aston recently introduced the limited-edition RapidE, an all-electric version of its four-door Rapide model. Lamborghini is reportedly playing with battery power itself.
(Click Here for more about Maserati’s second sport-utility vehicle.)
In fact, Ferrari used a hybrid boost system for the La Ferrari, but going entirely electric would be a challenge, Marchionne cautioned, pointing to Tesla. The California battery-carmaker claims to be able to hit 60 in just 2.3 seconds with its P100d model equipped with optional Ludicrous Mode. But that combination is little more than a drag car. The batteries quickly draw down and both the battery pack and motors quickly overheat. Porsche hopes to show that electric vehicles can match the performance of a gas-powered sports car when it introduces the Mission E later this year.
If it does, expect the pressure on Ferrari to deliver and all-electric model only to intensify. Perhaps it might go with an SUV body that would offer enough room to pack in the size of battery pack a performance car would really need.
Oh, and as for Montezemolo, who seemed to be far more narrow in his view of anything that threatened to shake Ferrari tradition, he expressed his disdain for a pure electric model in 2011.
“You will never see a Ferrari electric because I don’t believe in electric cars, because I don’t think they represent an important step forward for pollution or CO2 or the environment,” he explained. “But, we are working very, very hard on the hybrid Ferrari. This should be the future, and I hope in a couple of years you can see it.”
(To see more about Ferrari’s plans for an SUV, Click Here.)
We did see it, in the form of the La Ferrari. What else is coming, well, we may soon see that, as well.