Ferrari stock, priced at $52 to start, immediately shot up to $60 at launch and closed the first day up 5.7 percent. Bloomberg says Ferrari, spun off from Fiat Chrysler, now has a market cap of $10.4 billion (and raised $893 million).
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Though the excitement over a glamour stock like Ferrari is hardly surprising, I have to say I'm cynical about this. I don't really think that Ferrari is all that valuable a property, nor does it serve a vital purpose in today's automotive market. The stock price was down to $56 last time I looked.
Ferrari sells 7,000 cars a year, and it makes money on that volume — in part because the cars are so darned expensive. Want a 488GTB? That's $242,737, please. The cars range up to $1.6 million for the LaFerrari.
This Ferrari GTO reached $38 million in a recent auction. I'd have more fun with a $25,000 Mazda Miata. (Photo: Bonham)
The Motley Fool asks, "If production is capped and prices are already sky-high, how do you grow from there?"
Only a tiny number of millionaires and billionaires, in the Middle East, Europe and the U.S., can afford to buy Ferraris, and they usually have more important things to do than actually drive them. There is no car more likely to end up a garage queen. It's an investment, and maybe even a very good one, but the cars are more like expensive jewelry than usable vehicles.
Fiat Chrysler's Sergio Marchionne points out that Ferrari's market can only grow. "High net worth individuals, the population keeps on going up," he said on CNBC. Marchionne added that "hybrids are going to continue to be the mainstay of the automotive industry in the next phase of development," but that doesn't mean we'll be seeing a line of them from Ferrari.
A little history. The late Enzo Ferrari founded the brand in 1947, primarily as a vehicle for his racing obsession. He famously had little regard for the company's road cars, and routinely treated customers like dirt. Of course, this behavior had the perverse effect of making the cars seem even more exclusive and desirable.
Make no mistake, I consider Ferraris to be gorgeous artifacts, usually capable of exceptional high-speed performance. Many were mechanically innovative for their time. I've driven a few, and it wasn't a hardship post. But the performance of classic Ferraris isn't going to dazzle anybody today. A 1960s GTO, the most valuable Ferrari ever, hit zero to 60 in 5.4 seconds. That out-and-out race car, an icon worth $38 million when an example was recently auctioned, would get a close run for its money from a $25,000 2016 Mazda Miata. Personally, I'd have more fun in the Miata.
I know this is all heresy. So I'm a heretic. Ferrari fever has never bitten me, despite the rivers of ink devoted to them in the car magazines.
I'd like to see Ferrari doing more with electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Yes, I know about that ultra-expensive LaFerrari, but the hybrid drive is more show than go, adding a 161-horsepower boost to a company whose primary drive is a 789-horsepower V-12. Where's Ferrari's answer to Tesla?
Interestingly enough, another supercar company — Aston-Martin — is showing off a fully electric, 1,000-horsepower RapidE four-door concept car. "We see luxury electric vehicles as an intrinsic part of our future product portfolio," said Aston CEO Andy Palmer, formerly a power with Nissan's electric cars. Aston is actually exploring a production version that could be on the road in two years.
Smart supercar companies are right to look closely at Tesla Motors. Marchionne says,"I'm a phenomenal fan of Elon Musk — he's the greatest, he's a disrupter. He's a great marketer, and I love him."
Volkswagen Group is making a big commitment to electrics with cars like the Porsche Mission E and the Audi e-tron Quattro. And a bunch of new plug-in supercars are coming from startups such as Toroidion, Rimac and Renovo. Ferrari is still in love with big-horsepower V-8s, and I just don't think that's where the future lies.
But that sure is a sexy stock to buy, isn't it?