Ferrari under Fiat

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The death of Enzo Ferrari poses the question of what will happen to the Formula One Ferraris and Ferrari road cars now that this great character no longer has control. Fiat owns Ferrari and speculation about what this Italian colossus will do, now that Enzo Ferrari has gone, is bound to be of concem to all enthusiasts. Indeed, the matter has been discussed already, in a journal which we feel we are now really justified in referring to as Motorcar!

The opinions expressed, perhaps unconsciously, expose the very fears held by those who believe that cars made by individuals are better than those manufactured by industrial giants. Cars such as Bentley, Lancia and MG were at their best, were they not, when Walter Bentley, Vicenzo Lancia and Cecil Kimber were alive? These are the more sporting makes, but there are others. This is not to suggest that later models of these illustrious makes were poor cars. Far from it. But reflect on the racing successes, the more sporting aura, the individuality of these makes, when their originators were in control.

The run of Bentley victories at Le Mans was never matched by the Derby and Crewe cars bearing WO’s proud name. Look at what became of Lancia after it had taken on the Fiat mantle. It was not Kimber who killed the racing programme which had given his overhead-camshaft MGs their considerable prestige.

So what will happen to Ferrari? The aforementioned writer posing the question of what Fiat will do now that its ownership of Ferrari is unfettered thinks the famous red cars will continue to appear in Formula One, at least for a while, unless Fiat is influenced by how few Panda or Uno owners know that the maker of their little cars owns Ferrari, or does not find it relevant, but no doubt that could be put right by some effective advertising.

He believes Ferrari’s 3000-a-year output may be out of sympathy with Fiat’s love of highly-automated robots on its mass-production assembly-lines. This same speculator thinks it would be nice if Maranello changed to building high-tech cars, no longer built by hand, but by future Fiat robots, and for Ferrari to move away from its classic concept to a new kind of sports-car, including, perhaps, a four-door luxury Ferrari. . .

These ideas underline the fact that once individuals cease to control their factories things change, for better, for worse. In this context, one might cite Lotus under Colin Chapman, Lord Austin backing those twincam racing A7s, Peugeot in the days of family ownership, however good all these cars were subsequently. As Dr Magnus Pyke OBE (remember him?) says in his entertaining book The Six Lives of Pyke (JM Dent, 1981), the clock cannot be turned back. The Henry Fords and Lord Nuffields amassed immense personal fortunes before anyone noticed, but subsequent automation and computerisation ensured that no single individual any longer owned the car factories.

A pity! And where Ferrari is concerned, our fingers are firmly crossed.

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