Enzo Ferrari was in no way, an insignificant figure. Without his racing success, we would not have Alfa Romeo (albeit a rocky existence). It was Ferrari that dropped a V8 into a Lancia Thema 8.32 and made it the sleeper car of the time. Every single GT serial model issued from Maranello since the 1952 Ferrari 212 Inter Cabriolet have been designed by Pininfarina with the exception of a few show cars from Zagato, Agnelli, Vignale, Bertone and Ghia. Pinninfarina’s doors were the sole portal through which every memorable prancing horse carriage was penned. It was the disdain a tractor maker felt after a meeting with Enzo that led to one of his greatest rivals: Lamborghini. Calculating psychological pressure pitted driver against driver within the Ferrari team that led to victory after victory and champion after champion in the early years. This would establish the legacy of Ferrari in Formula One.
No one single man has been more influential to the company on the race track and in the showroom, in recent times, than Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. This man, since 1991, has transformed Ferrari’s road-car business from a sometimes break-even operation of a couple-of-thousand cars a year to a 7,000-unit luxury-car juggernaut of immense profitability. He started a rollout of new mid-engine V-8 models every five years that began with the 355 and continue to excite. Since taking the reins of the prancing horse, Luca has also earned the company a pretty penny on licensed items, including everything from Taiwanese-made laptops to Chinese-made teddy bears to the world’s largest indoor theme park, Ferrari World. He also started the Ferrari Challenge series which competes on at least five different continents.
However, as of October 13, after a power struggle with Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, Montezemolo will be stepping down. Everyone is publicly playing nice and calling it a resignation, but no one doubts he was forced to go. Don’t cry for Montezemolo, his net worth is estimated at $400 million. One of Italy’s most recognizable industrialists has his hands in several other businesses and will be just fine. Why is this important to Motoring Exposure readers? Although there are more competent rivals than there were in 1955, Ferrari remains a template for exotic car success. Whoever takes the reigns will have to be competent in business, know the pulse of the prestige-car industry and be able to spearhead ideas that are alluring, competitive and full of avant-garde technology. The next set of prancing horses to emerge from Maranello’s gate will be the projects of a new leader.
Montezemolo’s successor will have huge shoes to fill. Let’s hope that Luca leaves a black book of secrets, a bottle of swag and a sleeve full of surprises on his desk. Whoever ascends the throne next will surely need them.