Ferrari bets big on Europe's rebound

Ferrari Land in Spain is scheduled to open in 2016.
Jennifer Clark is an Automotive News Europe Correspondent in Italy.
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Ferrari's decision to open a new theme park in Europe rather than China or another growing market is a big bet that the region's slump is really over.

Demand for Ferrari's dream machines is so strong that it will hold back production through 2015 to protect brand exclusivity, Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo says.

Its recently spun off brand licensing business raked in more than 50 million euros last year. So Ferrari could have picked any place it wanted for its new Ferrari Land theme park, which will open in 2016 at the existing PortAventura park near Barcelona, Spain.

Ferrari branding chief Andrea Perrone said last year he was looking at locations in Europe and Asia. Europe was the winner, even though a third destination in Asia looms. Ferrari World, the automaker’s first theme park, opened in Dubai in 2010.

For the Europe park, financial investors KKR and InvestIndustrial will plunk down 100 million euros in a region that is just pulling out of deep recession.

Sure, the Spanish are crazy about Ferrari because of the popularity of the team’s Spanish Formula One driver Fernando Alonso. But that can't be the main reason for Ferrari’s decision.

Ferrari is betting on Europe's recovery, and on the track record of partner InvestIndustrial, the Italy-led private equity firm that purchased 40 percent of Aston Martin in 2012.

InvestIndustrial's backing of PortAventura and of Italy’s Gardaland parks shows the firm believes in the theme park business and knows how to make it work, Ferrari says.

The euro-zone economy grew 0.3 percent in the last quarter of 2013, and the recovery is slowly helping boost European car sales from their 20-year lows.

The new Ferrari Land in Spain is the latest sign that Europe's economic engine is slowly warming up.

Ferrari Land investors are betting they can grow the park's business, and Ferrari is staking future revenues on a bet that they are right.

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