The biggest surprise in the appointment of Benedetto Vigna as CEO of Ferrari – the 52-year-old replaces Louis C Camilleri, who resigned shortly after his recovery from Covid last December – is not so much that he was recruited from outside the automotive sector, but that the process took six months. That’s nine months without a CEO. For a public company. During a crisis.
This suggests a lack of succession planning within the company, inexplicable given that Camilleri was a makeshift CEO who was dismissed after the unexpected death of Sergio Marchionne in 2018. had diverted his attention when he completed the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Peugeot to form Stellantis.
After Camilleri’s departure, a number of potential candidates were linked to the job, including CEO of Porsche Italia, Pietro Innocenti, and fashion moguls Marco Bizzarri and Stefano Sassi (CEOs of Gucci and Valentino, respectively). Instead, Elkann and his board of directors chose an electronics freak with a number of microchip patents, one of which has an exemplary record at leading semiconductor company STMicroelectronics.
Vigna will move from STMicroelectronics to Ferrari in September. However, Camillini’s most recent job before he became Ferrari boss was at tobacco house Philip Morris. Prior to that, he ran the consumer company Kraft Foods. With this in mind, a physics graduate with a background in microchips is more of a “Ferrari” than his predecessor.
Still, Vigna’s recruitment matters on two fronts: He was clearly appointed to lead Ferrari, once the most engineering-focused of all car brands, into an increasingly electric future. Additionally, this suggests that Vigna, with no signs of motorsport involvement or interest on his résumé, is unlikely to be much involved in F1 operations beyond normal business matters such as budgets, revenue, and ROI.
The first reason is a sign of the times: With four-door electric “Execmobiles” from Porsche and Audi – not to forget Tesla – that are able to outperform all competitors by zero to 120, and upstarts in the world who promise To build battery supercars, Ferrari will clearly have to adopt such technologies sooner rather than later. A hybrid SUV with Prancing Horse, the Purosangue, is already on the way; the next Ferrari could well be a fully electric workhorse.
Interview: “We have to learn from our mistakes, not blame people”: Ferrari’s Binotto speaks to RaceFansWhen we interviewed the CEO and team boss of Scuderia Ferrari, Mattia Binotto, in Monaco, it was clear to him that an appointment was pending, but he was unable to comment due to the stock exchange regulations. However, he was confident that the sports division, Gestione Sportiva, would remain autonomous within the broader Ferrari structures.
“I have full autonomy and the daily power delegations,” he said. “When I need your support, I have your support as in the past. I don’t think much has changed. John Elkann is aware of this, is fully involved and comes to a few races; It’s a very positive and constructive collaboration that we have.
“[Elkann] is the chairman and CEO, so I’ll tell him about everything we do and the most important things [decisions]. I am convinced that there will always be a good, positive collaboration because Ferrari is a unique family. He is fully committed to the Ferrari project. “
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Such autonomy is all well and good, but should Vigna Ferrari take the purely electric route – his head is clearly where the electricity flows – what then for the Scuderia? F1 is Ferrari’s primary marketing platform – the brand struts its stuff on racetracks instead of traditional promotional programs – and the championship is expected to remain committed to hybrids for the foreseeable future.
Is Ferrari’s Future Electric? Could that be the end of the Scuderia? Could the unthinkable happen and Ferrari eventually drop F1 and switch to Formula E? This is not beyond the limits of what is possible, as the Concorde agreement expires at the end of 2025. By definition, DNA is about evolution, and Ferrari has grown from a sports car maker that existed only to fund the founder’s racing ambitions to a full-blown (limited) high-tech luxury brand. Could electricity be Ferrari’s next helix strand?
Ferrari has already signed a fashion branding deal with Armani and is in the process of reopening the Il Cavallino restaurant – located across from the holy gates – in collaboration with Michelin star chef Massimo Bottura, who has similar joint ventures with other luxury brands. That is a far cry from a company that produces a handful of cars by hand in an old forge each year; far from its original ‘DNA’.
Ferrari is accountable to its shareholders and not to Formula 1 or the Tifosi. If the electric drive on the road and the racetrack improves the end result while maintaining an aura of mysticism and luxury, then Elkann and Vigna will not hesitate to take this path. Deviating from the optimal path to sustainable profitability is not in the interests of the shareholders. The Scuderia as we know it could ultimately be collateral damage.
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