Ferrari's Apple Car

Not really, but Jony Ive and Eddy Cue are involved...
As the E.V. Revolution Slows, Ferrari Enters the Race
Growth in electric vehicle sales has been slowing, but the Italian luxury carmaker is stepping up investment and setting ambitious targets.

A few interesting nuggets in this look into Ferrari's quest to build their own electric vehicle – particularly in some tangents to Apple. First, the most direct one:

Despite the challenges, Ferrari sees an opportunity in the industry’s inevitable march toward electrification to reach a new consumer: the wealthy environmentalist. It intends to unveil its first fully electric model in the fourth quarter of next year. As part of its strategy, the carmaker has enlisted LoveFrom — the agency founded by Jony Ive, Apple’s former design chief, and the industrial designer Marc Newson — to hone the car’s appearance.

Well, it's not the Apple Car, but we will get to see a vehicle at least partially designed by Jony Ive. Beyond the fact that they're working on it, little else seems to be known about the car itself:

There is plenty of mystery shrouding the yet-to-be-named car, including its battery life and what it will sound like. The company has not disclosed its look, production run or price tag. But it could be one of the most expensive electric vehicles on the market, analyst say, surpassing Porsche’s $286,000 Taycan Turbo GT.

But Ferrari can afford the secrecy, quite literally:

Ferrari does not need an electric vehicle to pad its bottom line. Under Mr. Vigna, a former executive at the chip maker STMicroelectronics who took the helm nearly three years ago, the company has been on a tear. The stock is one of the best performers in Europe this year, giving it a roughly $75 billion market valuation, higher than that of Ford or General Motors. Profits are soaring alongside prices at Ferrari, which makes some of the most expensive cars on the planet. There’s a three-year waiting list for some models.

It's sort of wild that a chip executive took over the company? And even more wild how well that's working out for them. I had no idea that Ferrari is now worth more than Ford and GM. Of course, it has a long way to go to catch Tesla – with a market cap 10x that of Ferrari right now. Increasingly, those two companies are playing different games (despite the move here into EVs), but there are some tangential fan-related overlaps:

Ferrari’s success over the years on the Formula 1 track has also led to a lucrative corporate sponsorship and merchandise business that has transformed it into a luxury brand with a sporty flair. Ferrari’s prancing horse logo can be found on high-end apparel like a €790 cashmere sweater.

Personally, I don't think I would wear a Ferrari cashmere sweater, but it's certainly more classy than say, a flamethrower. Oh sorry, that's one of the other Elon Musk companies.

But challenges loom. Enthusiasts who had gathered outside the factory gates last month wondered: Will it look, handle and sound like the classic Ferrari growler, or have the understated whine of most electric vehicles?

“When you think of a Ferrari, it still has that kind of engine sensation, and you also think of the roar,” Mr. de Ambroggi said. “I don’t know how Ferrari resolves this.”

Mr. Vigna fields that question often, especially from longtime customers, or Ferraristi. They seem to be channeling the deceased founder, Enzo Ferrari, who once broke down in the simplest terms how he built some of the fastest cars on the planet: “I build motors and attach them to wheels.”

Mr. Vigna’s E.V. pitch has a different ring. “The electric engine will not be silent,” he said. “There are ways to make sure that the emotion comes through from driving an electric Ferrari that is the same as when you drive a hybrid or when you drive a thermal Ferrari.”

First, the Enzo Ferrari quote is wonderful. Second, very curious how Ferrari, the company, squares this circle. This has long been an issue with EVs, not just from a luxury/feel perspective, but from a safety perspective too, of course. I think it's weird to give a vehicle fake sounds meant to mimic old technology that required such sounds. It feels like a form of skeuomorphism at its worst. I'd be in favor of some sort of newer sound, even if not exactly a byproduct of the technology.

And then there is the matter of price. Last month, Reuters reported that the car would cost at least €500,000 ($540,000). Mr. Vigna pushed back on the speculation, saying it is too early to talk price.

Ferrari still follows its founder’s principle for producing a limited number of extremely expensive cars. Ferrari made fewer than 14,000 last year; even with the e-building, production is not expected to increase much at the start.

This brings us back to Apple and their ill-fated car project. Amongst the many issues with building a car, it seems like Apple couldn't quite figure out how to do so profitably at a compelling price point. Ferrari takes almost the opposite approach, and it's worth wondering if Apple shouldn't have done the same? Focus on making the best car, period. Not the best car for a certain price point.

I get that these price points are in nosebleed territory and Apple is now fully a mass market consumer brand, but you can't help but wonder if they shouldn't have followed Tesla's own playbook here, starting with a high-end, expensive and limited edition car, and working their way mainstream over time. This has long been Apple's playbook as well in other verticals, cars are just a very different beast, of course.

Then again, Ferrari has almost the opposite approach. They're not working their way mainstream. They aim to maintain that extremely high-end brand aura (and the margins that brings with it). It's clearly working for them. Might the same have worked for Apple? Presumably they thought about this – certainly as none other than Apple SVP Eddy Cue happens to sit on Ferrari's board. Also the rumors, years ago, that Apple was thinking about buying McLaren – which makes even higher end cars. Alas, instead we'll have to settle for an F1 movie made by Apple.

Update July 7, 2024: Speaking of...

The Apple Car May Have Flopped, Apple’s Car Movie Should Not
It’s just a teaser trailer, but ‘F1’ looks great.