Blowout at Ferrari

The iconic Italian carmaker's Web site isn't up to speed

It was 1919 when a former Italian muleskinner was demobbed from World War I and subsequently became a test driver for the small, Milan-based auto manufacturer firm Costruzioni Meccaniche Nazionali (CMN). Ten years later, he founded—and named after himself—an automotive manufacturer of racecars and sports cars. Today, Enzo Ferrari’s name is as inextricably linked to world motor sport as his company is to the color red. His range of private sports cars are purported to snap knicker elastic at a range of 50 yards.

There are very few brands with the raw, intrinsic power of Ferrari. The very mention of the name evokes images of affluence, speed, glamour and success. Translating such emotion to the web however can be a process fraught with difficulty, and suffered a blow out along the way.

Yes, the homepage is festooned in scarlet and its commitment to the brand’s Italian heritage is without question. But where’s the rush of adrenalin and the unbridled sense of anticipation that one expects upon ignition? Even the flash technology appears to misfire as it fails to facilitate the high-octane ride that one expects from Ferrari.

The site does contain all of the relevant prerequisites, such as a media center, a corporate center, F1 information, online shopping, an owners’ site and an online community referred to as “Club Ferrari.” However, you must pay an online joining fee of 25 Euro for 12 months of access to the exclusive “You and the Ferrari Community.”

One of the better and perhaps more innovative areas of the site is the “Mobile Zone,” which is a portal that’s clearly been designed to exploit the benefits of Ferrari’s tie-up with Vodafone. Here, dedicated fans of the prancing horse can fill the memory chips of their mobile phones with all things Ferrari and Formula 1, as wallpapers, games and video clips of Ferrari’s F1 team are brought to the palm of your hand, thanks to the latest in mobile technology.

The “Galleria” section is also worth a look if you can’t get to the museum in Maranello, as it comes complete with a virtual tour and plenty of information on the exhibits and culture.

Despite these rare highlights, appears somewhat impotent as a force on the web.

Sure, having the option to read some sections in Italian, English or German is a bonus. But the site’s inability to successfully cross the language barrier with any degree of consistency is a constant source of frustration. Examples of this elementary issue pervade the site like wildfire, as even those who select English as the preferred language before entering can still expect to be treated to a procession of pop-ups and links that are written only in Italian and are somewhat bewildering to those who aren’t fluent in Enzo’s native tongue. While it is possible to link to a number of country-based sites, these are somewhat diluted in terms of content and the real action is firmly back at base.

The disappointment from a visit to Ferrari’s web portal is positively palpable and can best be analogized by taking a GTB Fiorano for a test drive only for the gear shift to come off in your hand. So much anticipation, so much expectation and, unfortunately, so much consternation.

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