The long and profitable reign of Luca Cordero di Montezemelo, Ferrari chairman for the last 23 years, will end on 13 October. His place will be taken by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles chief exec Sergio Marchionne.
Montezemelo’s decision to leave follows criticism from Marchionne at the Monza Grand Prix last weekend. He described the recent performances of Ferrari’s Formula One team as “unacceptable”.
The dispute is acknowledged in the FCA press release announcing the change in leadership for Maranello. “Our mutual desire to see Ferrari achieve its true potential on the track has led to misunderstandings which became clearly visible over the last weekend,” said Marchionne in his carefully worded statement, before adding a polite expression of gratitude. “I want to thank Luca for all he has done for Fiat, for Ferrari and for me personally.”
And thanks are in order. During his time at the helm, Montezemelo presided over a 10-fold increase in revenue and a tripling of sales volumes. At the same time, he pushed Maranello’s designers, engineers, development teams and production workers to make better and better Ferraris.
Today’s Ferrari seems to have forgotten how to make a crap car. The 458, especially the Speciale, the F12 berlinetta and the La Ferrari are all wonderful expressions of the engineers art and fabulous things to drive. It wasn’t that way when Montezemelo took over as chairman in 1991. Back then, remember, the Mondial was still in production and the not-so-great 348 had just replaced the rather awful 328.
There’s little doubt Montezemelo’s time will come to be regarded as something of a golden era for Ferrari road cars, but success on the racetrack has lately proved elusive.
While the obvious friction at Monza last weekend was over the F1 team’s performance, it may not have been the most important factor behind Montezemelo’s decision to resign.
Ferrari is 90 percent owned by Fiat, and the flotation of recently Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on the New York Stock Exchange is scheduled for October. It is believed Montezemelo wanted preserve Ferrari autonomy inside the FCA, sticking with its low-volume production and high-profit strategy. Marchionne, it’s said, envisages greater involvement of Maranello into the group’s global strategy.
Marchionne has clearly won the battle, and Montezemelo now apparently fears for Ferrari’s future. “Ferrari is now American,” he is reported by leading Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera to have told associates on the weekend.