Why newly independent Ferrari may be forced into fuel-efficient cars [UPDATE]
The repercussions from Ferrari's pending transition into an independent automaker won't be understood for some time, but one of the biggest consequences could be that the iconic Italian marque will be forced into building more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Ferrari's status as a public company could trigger pressure from shareholders to build more six-figure supercars and grand tourers. In turn, doing so could – rather far in the future – lead the company afoul of US Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which dictates that any company that sells over 10,000 vehicles in the United States needs to maintain a certain fuel economy average across its fleet or risk fines. Considering that Ferrari only sold 7,000 vehicles around the globe last year, it seems pretty unlikely it'll get in trouble with the CAFE rules. Still, things will change for the brand when it goes independent.
For purposes of CAFE standards, Ferrari is currently lumped into what Fiat Chrysler Automobiles calls its import fleet, alongside Maserati. That means neither brand benefits from the higher fuel efficiency provided by vehicles built in North America, while Ferrari's fleet average is offset by the more efficient and more plentiful vehicles from Maserati. An independent Ferrari, even if it's still far south of the 10,000-unit-per-year threshold, will still likely see its fleet ratings jump considerably.
With arguably its most popular model, the 458 Italia, hitting just 17 miles per gallon on the highway and its most efficient model, the turbocharged California T, stuck at 18 mpg, Ferrari isn't in a great place to hit the government's mandates (those figures come from the Monroney stickers, and are not directly translatable to the somewhat convoluted CAFE ratings, as Wired explains). The gist of the situation is that Ferrari will either need to continue limiting the number of vehicles it sells each year – a move that's certain to upset shareholders and irk its boss, Sergio Marchionne – or radically improve the fuel economy of its cars at the risk of performance. Rock, meet hard place.
Ferrari does have options, as Wired explains it. The most obvious is to take the approach used on the new California T, which ditched its 4.3-liter V8 for a 3.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V8. Such an approach of downsizing through forced induction has been successfully applied across the industry, even in high-performance applications. The other option, which some enthusiasts may be loathe to consider, is a wider application of hybrid technology. The company has successfully built a hybrid hypercar with its LaFerrari, but there's no clear indication that its performance-oriented tech could be applied to improve fuel economy, let alone at a reasonable cost.
Another option that Wired points out may be even less desirable to enthusiasts, and would see Ferrari follow the example of Aston Martin. For a time, the British marque sold a rebadged Toyota iQ called Cygnet, as a means of bolstering its fleet economy. Ferrari could do the same, although we all know how things turned out for Aston.
Finally, and what we think might be the most logical option, is that Ferrari simply thumbs its nose at CAFE standards and accepts fines from the EPA for not meeting fuel efficiency standards. It's unclear how big those costs would be, but we doubt Ferrari sees any price as too big to continue with business as usual.
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