March 1 (Bloomberg) -- Ferrari SpA, Fiat SpA’s most profitable unit, will target wealthy families and golf bag-toting sports-car enthusiasts when it introduces the four-seat FF, the first Ferrari with four-wheel drive.
Ferrari aims to build 800 of the FF annually, with the first year of production already sold out, Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo said in Geneva today. The car will be priced at 260,000 euros ($359,000).
“Four-wheel drive is a revolution for Ferrari,” said Fabio Barone, 38, chairman of the Passione Rossa owners’ club, who has two Ferraris. “You can finally drive a real Ferrari, with its extreme performance, to take your family skiing.”
Supercar sales are growing amid renewed optimism in the finance industry after the U.S. economy expanded 2.9 percent last year, the most in five years. U.S. sales of the world’s most expensive cars, a category that includes Ferraris and spans sticker prices from $200,000 to $400,000, may surge 146 percent this year after dropping 40 percent in 2010, according to Lexington, Massachusetts-based IHS Automotive.
Fiat rose as much as 21 cents, or 3.1 percent, to 6.94 euros and was up 1 percent to 6.79 euros as of 1:44 p.m. in Milan trading. The shares have gained 1.4 percent this year, valuing the Turin, Italy-based carmaker at 8.4 billion euros.
“With the FF, we open a new book in Ferrari’s history,” Montezemolo told reporters. “This is something we have never done before.”
The 660-horsepower FF, which stands for Ferrari Four, accelerates to 100 kilometers (62 miles) an hour in 3.7 seconds. The FF “can comfortably accommodate four people and their luggage,” with a 450-liter (15.9 cubic feet) trunk, extendable to 800 liters with the back seats down, Ferrari said on its website. The trunk and cabin space are the biggest in the category, according to the company.
“Ferrari is widening its offer to niches it didn’t cover before,” said AT Kearney analyst Marco Santino. “It may be a winning strategy if they are bringing something really new to the market.” Lamborghini SpA, Maranello, Italy-based Ferrari’s main competitor, has used four-wheel drive technology already.
Lamborghini unveiled its Aventador supercar at the Geneva show. The car will be the Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy-based carmaker’s most powerful series production vehicle ever.
The Aventador, which has an engine that surges to 100 kilometers per hour in 2.9 seconds, will replace the Volkswagen AG brand’s top-of-the-line Murcielago. The supercar, priced at 225,000 euros, is also sold out for its first year of production.
Ferrari in 2010 posted a 13 percent increase in sales in the U.S., the biggest market for supercars. Employees at big Wall Street banks continued to outpace other professions in earnings even as they took modest pay cuts in 2010.
Ferrari is also trying to boost profit by adding products and expanding in fast-growing countries such as China, where its sales increased 44 percent in 2010, and India, where it will open a first dealership in Mumbai in coming months. Ferrari opened a theme park in Abu Dhabi last year.
Ferrari “is the prize asset of the new Fiat auto, with high margins, high growth and a unique brand value,” Max Warburton, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in London, wrote in a note to clients on Feb. 2. He estimates that Ferrari and Fiat’s Maserati brand may be worth a combined 3.5 billion euros.
Ferrari aims to increase sales about 3 percent this year to a record 6,800 vehicles, Montezemolo said today, adding that there is no plan to sell shares in the Fiat unit.
Ferrari’s earnings before interest, taxes and one-time items, which Fiat calls trading profit, rose 27 percent to 303 million euros in 2010 as revenue reached 1.9 billion euros. Fiat’s auto unit began trading separately from the company’s industrial operations on Jan. 3.
Fiat Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne in April announced a five-year plan for Ferrari and Maserati, calling for the two luxury brands to almost double revenue to about 4 billion euros by 2014 by adding products and widening their model ranges.
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