Ferrari was almost immune to the ills of the global financial downturn. While rival supercar makers watched unit sales decline by up to 50 percent and saw profits turn to losses last year, Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo helped keep the company on course.
Unit sales at the Fiat S.p.A. subsidiary slipped just 4.5 percent to 6,235 units. And while Ferrari's operating profit fell almost 30 percent to 245 million euros that result still accounted for a hefty operating margin of 13.8 percent of revenues, by far the best result in a year when the industrywide global margin for automakers was in the low single digits.
After nearly 20 years at Ferrari, Montezemolo had seen – and survived – many crises. Regardless of the situation, he has always pulled Ferrari through the tough times. A secret to Montezemolo's long run of success has been his oft-stated belief that: “To maintain Ferrari's exclusivity, you must always build one car less than the market demands."
At the same time, Montezemolo, 63, has pushed the automaker to create “Ferrari diverse per Ferraristi diversi” (different Ferraris for different Ferrari owners). He has enticed Ferrari owners to add to their collections by having the company create front-engine models such as 456 GT, 612 Scaglietti, California to complement the company's core lineup of rear engine supercars.
To maintain its exclusivity, Ferrari will continue to limit annual production to about 6,000 units a year. But while car output will be limited, Montezemolo keeps finding news ways to turn cash in on the Ferrari brand. The chairman has overseen a huge expansion in merchandising and licensing of Ferrari products.
The popularity of automaker's famous logo has allowed it to open 38 Ferrari Stores all over the world. The newest locations are along Park Avenue in New York City and in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In late October, the automaker will take another bold marketing step when the first Ferrari theme park opens in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Despite these non-automotive activities, Montezemolo's true passion and Ferrari's No. 1 mission remain the same: to build world-class supercars.
Since stepping down as chairman of Fiat S.p.A. in April (he remains on the Fiat board), Montezemolo has spent most of time at Ferrari headquarters in Maranello, near Modena, central Italy.
“I want to shape the next product cycle at Ferrari to assure a bright future at a company that has been inextricably intertwined with my life,” he said.
Ferrari and Montezemolo both were born in 1947. He worked for the company from 1973 to 1977 as team manager of the Formula One division, as well as assistant to company founder Enzo Ferrari. After 14 years working at other businesses in the Fiat empire and in the professional sports industry, Montezemolo returned to Ferrari as chairman in November 1991.