Red racer Ferrari joins green revolution

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Maranello: Italy’s red racing giant Ferrari wants to go green, cutting emissions without sacrificing horsepower and working on a new hybrid model set to thrill pro-environment speed junkies.

“We’re working on reducing energy consumption without forgetting that the symbol of Ferrari is performance,” Matteo Lanzavecchia, head of development, told AFP at the luxury car-maker’s historic factory in Maranello, a small town in the Emilia Romagna region.

“We’ve also managed to up horsepower to 100 while still reducing CO2 emissions by 30 percent,” he said.

The sleek “California 30″, one of the brand’s most sought-after models with a price tag of 180,000 euros ($239,000), has been vamped up with the new technology — extra horsepower but weighing 30 kilogrammes (66 pounds) less than the previous version.

The entrance of the Ferrari factory in Maranello, pictured on December 5, 2012
© AFP/File Gabriel Bouys

“We’re going all out, not just using the lightest materials but making adjustments across the board. We have improved the brake system to reduce friction and the fan to reduce energy consumption,” Lanzavecchia said.

And the green drive does not stop there: among the towering steel machines on the Maranello factory floor trees have been planted to control the air’s humidity levels.

The most recent buildings have also been built with vast glass bays to allow more light in and slash electricity consumption.

The hybrid car — set to hit salesrooms in the next few months — aims to lure customers not only with its green credentials but also the promise of an off-piste taste of a Formula One experience.

It will have the Kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) used in the famous racer — which recovers energy during braking and stores it for future use — “to reduce consumption but also capture the thrill of driving a Ferrari,” Lanzavecchia said.

The luxury brand has managed to avoid fallout from the economic crisis which hit the standard automobile industry.

Last year 7,200 Ferraris were sold around the world, up 10 percent from 2010, and the company’s turnover this year has shot up over the two billion euro level for the first time in its history.

As well as focussing on emerging markets, the brand has been tempting clients with “personal stylist” services and gadgets to gussy up the inside of gleaming new Ferraris.

“There are opportunities all over the world. Of course, we are more prudent about some markets such as Europe, but there are others where the economy is growing — China, Indonesia, Malaysia or the United States,” commercial director Enrico Galliera said.

For a small fee — up to half the cost of the vehicle — customers can personalise the car’s interior with cashmere, peccary or teak and choose their favourite model of seats, seat-belt, HI-FI system and touch-screen.

An employee is seen working on a car at the Ferrari factory in Maranello, on December 5, 2012 © AFP/File Gabriel Bouys

“We have personal designers who help the client choose and give him advice,” Nicola Boari, head of the personal shopper system, said in the factory’s workshop.

Nearby, women in red overalls cut out metres of fabric for the cars’ interiors, tailoring them specially for each new owner.

Anything goes — as long as it stays within the limits of good taste and conforms to Ferrari’s glossy and seductive “Italian style.”

“We would never let a Ferrari leave our factory with crocodile-leather seats or our trademark horse symbol done in diamonds,” one of the stylists said.

The extras may cost, but that does not seem to put eager customers off — around 98 percent of them choose to jazz up their brand new racers.

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