ROME (Reuters) -- Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the chairman of Ferrari and past holder of some of Italy's most prestigious business posts, says he would like to be re-born a politician.
But some ask, why wait to die?
Indeed, when he speaks, the dapper Montezemolo, who looks younger than his 63 years and sports a Bobby Kennedy-esque mane of hair, often sounds like a politician-in-waiting.
"In Italy we need to rediscover the culture of consensus, to rediscover a sense of community, not always everyone against each other," he said over a lunch with journalists.
"We need to carry out a series of fundamental reforms that are neither of the left or of the right, a reform of the state, a reform of tax laws and a pact for growth," he said.
Italy's political situation is in turmoil, with the country facing the prospects of early elections after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was ordered to stand trial over a sex scandal.
Montezemolo keeps his cards close to his chest when asked about possible political forays. One minute he dismisses them ("I'm too old") and then he casts a playful wink at an interviewer that seems to say: watch this space.
By any standards, Montezemolo could be said to have already lived several lives, all of them impressive in their own right, and his entry into politics would certainly be electrifying.
He organized the 1990 World Cup, was chairman of Fiat, managed Italy's America's Cup challenge team, headed the powerful business lobby Confindustria and is now concurrently running Ferrari and creating a start-up that aims to end the state railway system's monopoly on high-speed train service.
It comes as no surprise, then, that his one-word mantra for lifting Italy out of its economic slump slips off his tongue like a Ferrari coming out of a curve: competitiveness.
"We have to inject massive doses of competitiveness into the Italian system: national competition, local competition, privatization, liberalization. Competitiveness encourages meritocracy, better services at lower prices and new entrepreneurs starting new businesses," he said.
"Unfortunately many Italian politicians do not have a culture of competition -- just take a look at the electoral law. If I as a voter cannot decide who to send to parliament because someone else (a political party leader) has to decide, that is the very opposite of competition."
Economists say an uncompetitive industrial sector and chronically low growth are among Italy's deep-seated problems, along with one of the heaviest debt burdens in the euro zone.
Apostle of risk
Montezemolo is an apostle of risk, a characteristic that is definitely not engrained in the psyche of a country where many people still would rather seek that low-paying but secure civil service "job for life" than take a chance in the marketplace.
"This country has to rediscover a spirit of liberalization. I always hear talk of liberal governments but I have not seen one liberalization, those which spur new entrepreneurial talent. Liberalization means opening the market," he said.
The Bank of Italy forecasts full-year economic growth of around 1 percent this year, roughly the same as in 2010 and below the government's official forecast of 1.3 percent.
But to grow, Montezemolo says Italy must dismantle the snail-paced bureaucracy and civil justice system, especially if it is to attract the kind of foreign investment it needs.
"People don't invest in Italy fundamentally because it is too complicated, because there is too much bureaucracy, the civil justice system is eternal, because of structural problems like transport, because union rituals are often too long and too complicated," he said, without hiding his exasperation.
Montezemolo has disdain for most members of Italy's political class, although he is careful not to make personal attacks and has mostly avoided criticizing Berlusconi over his private sex scandals.
"Italian politics is like a club of about 30 people. They talk to themselves, they are self-serving, like a private club with a large gap between them and the country," he said.
Future Italy think tank
A think-tank he has founded would certainly come in handy if he ever decides to throw his hat into the political ring.
Italiafutura (The Future Italy) defines itself as "an association founded to promote civil and political debate on the country's future" and to go beyond what its website calls "the pathologies" of the Italian political system.
"I don't accept that only politicians can talk about public policy. Public policy is not the private monopoly of the political world," he said.
So will the man who helped Ferrari win so many Formula One titles make a pit stop to get into politics?
"I hope I am re-born before the next elections," he says, before breaking into a sly smile.