What’s it like to wander around the on-line show room of Ferrari?
Recently I´ve felt curious about the customer experience for prospective Ferrari owners. You don’t need to be out of your pyjamas to visit Ferrari’s website so I thought I’d see what happened and what I’d feel like if I did a little virtual tyre kicking. What I found is described below.
I went to Ferrari’s start page which confused me by offering me a choice of images, a red car and a blue car. The blue one was labelled but the red one was not (or so it seemed). What would I do next? Was this all Ferrari were selling. Then I noticed there was a list of options, top of which was “GT and sports cars”. I decided to pick this after rejecting the “find a dealer” option which took me to a map of North Italy. I don’t live there.
The next steps took me to a page with a rotating selection of new red, blue and grey cars and one old red one (not shown). I chose to try and find out about the FF with its 12-cylinder engine and handy hatchback construction (maybe it is a bit like a Golf, in some ways). By accident I ran the mouse over a button on the lower left of the screen labelled “automobili”. This was the way to find their line-up of cars. I have marked this with an arrow in the screen shot if you want to try this at home.
I clicked on the FF tab and then the one labelled “request information”. The screen flickered and a set of screens flashed before settling on the bottom of a long screen where I was invited to fill in my contact details. Rather than do this I experimented with scrolling up and found the rest of the screens that had just flashed past. I had done the equivalent of falling ten floors down a lift shaft and was now crawling back up.
The text is sparse, as per cigarette and perfume advertising. The first thing we are told is that “The FF: the Ferrari Four. Four as in four-wheel drive. Four as in the four comfortable seats that cocoon driver and occupants alike. A four-seater that utterly changes the whole GT sports car concept, hailing nothing short of a revolution in the automotive world.” Note the modern lack of verbs. Further insight is offered:
“Modern, innovative, futuristic and stunningly elegant. The FF’s styling, created by Pininfarina, is completely new in every sense of the word.” The next tidbit is about 4RM: “The 4rm is an entirely new system that transmits torque to all four wheels of the car. A Ferrari patent, it is the main innovation sported by the new FF.” We are treated to a full blast of technical information then.
“V12 engine: Completely new mid-front-mounted 6,262 cc GDI V12 that delivers unprecedented performance and responsiveness at all engine speeds: 660 cv at 8,000 rpm.” This means nought to 60 in 3.7 seconds, by the way. And the boot capacity is 450 litres. To compare, the VQ Golf R (also 4WD) has a boot capacity of 343 litres*. It is a bit cheaper. (£29,900)
The next page is a table of data which yields, for me, the fun statistic that the FF has a 91 litre fuel tank. At April prices it costs a little under £118 to fill one of these cars. We are now getting close to the gritty reality of the special privilege of Ferrari ownership. The official fuel consumption is 15.4 litres per 100 km. That’s 18 miles per gallon. A trip from Le Havre to St Jean Cap Ferrat will require 44 gallons which is £255.
It’s not very likely that this cost is out of proportion to the income required for such a car. Stopping just short of your hotel or palace at St- Jean Cap Ferrat to fill up for the third time since starting 12 hours ago in Le Havre seems a bit of a nuisance. The car needs an extra four gallons or so to make the cross-France trip possible without a third refill.
Having determined all of this I wandered into the section on vehicle dynamics and then tried to configure a car of my own.
I chose Blu Swaters from the Ferrari historical collection. For the rims the standard looked best for me as were standard black brake callipers. I ticked the tyre pressure measurement and spare wheel options. And Ferrari offer “front grilles” which I think looked nice in metallic. To my surprise Scuderia Ferrari shields (yellow stickers) are not an after-market detail added by insecure owners but something Ferrari offer officially. They are horrible, a further gilding of the very gilded lily (See Simon and Eoin on the subject of badges).
I rejected black inserts on the mirrors and every other exterior option as being of no visual use whatsoever. For the seating I mistakenly picked two tone leather and Alcantara in Sabbia (a reddish brown) and the screen didn’t show what this looked like. Lacking much taste, I had to choose Rosso seatbelts, and the best seats with horse stitching. Carpets: Otranto brown. For the boot there was a choice of carpet, leather or Alcantara. Whoever is choosing Alcantara is clearly only carrying velour-covered jewellery cases and not their hiking boots and Labrador dog.
The options list bored me until the point where I could choose a fire extinguisher, a dedication plate (“to me from me with love”), a luggage set, smoking set and weekend bag and a suit carrier. I didn’t choose the luggage net or golf bag. The carbon fibre trim is absurd as the stupid Ferrari sticker for the car’s front wing. No thanks.
And finally I picked the Alutex steering wheel. I wasn’t asked if I wanted electric windows, air conditioning or an arm-rest for the front or rear. I expect they are standard. All that ruins this charade is that I don’t know precisely how much any of this costs. They start at £227,026 though and I suppose I’ve added another Ford Fiesta’s-worth to the cost.
Wouldn’t it look better with a chrome window surround? I´ve added one myself, just to see.
My view on this is that Ferrari’s website isn’t very much different in feel from any of the websites provided by less exclusive manufacturers. In some ways it’s worse. I wanted to see an interior and would like to have had some revolving views. Such niceties are offered by Ford and GM. I also think that Ferrari might be less coy about the prices. Or can they be precise? How much was the smoking kit? €200 or €1000? I’d like to know.
I suppose you aren’t really supposed to buy a Ferrari like this. You’re supposed to visit the main dealer and see one for yourself: open a box of wood, leather and paint samples while some oily guy with a striped shirt and cuff-links panders to your need to be respected. I expected something more elaborate and also really easy to use but the UI was actually not much better than what I think is the average.
As usual, it’s the mainstream makers that offer the best quality in what we like to think of as the “real world”. Still, the FF does go a bit faster and carries more luggage than a Golf. On the other hand, I have no use for a car that won’t cross France without a fuel stop every 6 hours and I need a bit more luggage space than the FF offers. It would be nice to imagine a car in this league I really would like to own if money were no object but this one isn’t it. Next stop: Kensington, I suppose.