Six years ago, Herbert Appleroth took reins of Ferrari Australia from previous importer ATECO Australia. Over the previous decade and a half, he had transformed both Ferrari and Maserati in Australia before working of Maserati in Modena. In 2010 he returned to Ferrari has head of Ferrari Japan and then in 2013, formed Ferrari Australiasia, taking over from ATECO.
Since then the business has (by low-volume, high-end sports cars standards) exploded. At the release of the new F8 Tributo, The Redline snagged a few minutes with the local CEO to talk about what makes Ferrari tick and why the brand continues to grow in a crowded marketplace.
We started Ferrari Australasia to get closer to our customers.Herbert Appleroth, Ferrari Australasia
Who buys these cars?
The market for sports cars is very healthy in Australasia, despite some impressive competition from Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche and Ferrari’s sometime F1 rival, McLaren. Ferrari continues to grow in sales so I asked what it was that keeps Maranello’s finest in the front of well-heeled buyer’s minds.
“The Ferrari segment [ie $300,000+ sports cars] has gone from about 600 units to over a thousand. That’s obviously not all from us. Some players have come on or weren’t there or weren’t prominent five to ten years ago. And for us it’s fantastic, because they’re different price points and they’re bringing people into a marketplace, which is sports cars. And that’s our business.
“I joke around when people ask me who are your competitors and we mention certain brands. We love them because they’re starter Ferraris. It’s a great way to introduce them to the world.”
I laugh, but I know he’s only half-joking. Herbert has a grin that can coax a lot of money out of Ferrari buyers, but he’s not here to mess around.
“It’s the getting to the point now where there are no compromises with sports cars now. In a Ferrari you push the bumpy road button and it’s amazingly compliant. It’s really smart technology.”
I asked if Herbert thought that it was the entry of those other brands (really, it’s about McLaren and probably the Audi R8) that has spurred Ferrari’s push to be more comfortable day-to-day.
“We talk to your customers. We are absolutely customer-focussed, we ask them what they want and our engineers over-deliver. We bring to market that wasn’t even in the market, we created it. You’re seeing here 44 years of sports car history. The 360 was our first aluminium car, F1 transmission, the true interface in electronics to make you go faster but using smart software, like Side Slip Control now up to version six.
It’s about creating fun. The cars are fun within the limit on track and on road.Herbert Appleroth, Ferrari Australasia
“It’s also about being close to our customers. We do a lot of events, over 200 events per year. The other brands bring people to the over $200,000 sports car market and most people dream of having a Ferrari when they can afford it. If it suits their lifestyle when they can afford it, once they’ve had an experience, there’s no turning back.
What about the SUV?
I asked, but he wouldn’t be drawn on who would buy a Ferrari SUV – “I won’t speculate on future product”.
“I will say we’re about bringing new people to the Ferrari family, that’s what we’re dedicated to. Australia has the highest percentage of new customers coming to Ferrari every year. The products – Portofino, GTC Lusso, the compliance. Even the reliability, the serviceability. Think about it – a Ferrari comes with seven years free maintenance. It’s something we’re proud of – it’s not just product, it’s also about engagement with our clients, we’ve expanded our dealer network. We continue to invest in our people, our showrooms and our facilities.
Will the F8 match 488 sales?
“Who knows? This is probably the biggest even we’ve ever held, 400 people here. It goes on the roadshow right around Australia and New Zealand. We’re already extremely excited about the reaction and pre-orders.
“Why not? It’s a car that works on the success of the 488 and makes it even better. More power, faster through corners. Our engineers have worked on a car that was already regarded as the world’s best sports car.”
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.