By Giulio Piovaccari
MILAN (Reuters) - Ferrari unveiled on Tuesday its first SUV, the 390,000 euro ($397,000), 12-cylinder Purosangue, aimed at super-rich drivers still not ready to go all-electric.
While late to the SUV market, the Italian brand famed for its prancing horse logo is sure the luxury sports car-style of the Purosangue - or Thoroughbred - will make the model stand out.
"Since we announced it was a V12 (in May), the interest for the car exploded," Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer Enrico Galliera told reporters at Ferrari headquarters in Maranello, adding the company had been inundated with pre-orders from customers who have not even seen it. He did not give numbers.
Despite its size and weight, Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna prefers to describe the four-door, four-seat Purosangue, which has a top speed of over 310 kph (190 mph), as a versatile sports car, rather than an SUV.
It illustrates a dilemma facing many established automakers. Investors have made electric carmaker Tesla the industry's most valuable company, and policymakers around the world are setting deadlines to stop selling combustion vehicles. But a large group of consumers still want petrol-burning vehicles, and are willing to pay premium prices for them.
Ferrari embraced electrification in its business plan in June, but is taking a slow lane to its goal. Executives declined to give details about possible future plug-in or battery electric versions of the Purosangue.
GAME CHANGER Over several days, Ferrari is showing the Purosangue to 2,000 of its top-tier clients, but has already received "many more" orders, Galliera said.
The car will be one of the most expensive SUVs. Only the Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV is offered at similar price levels.
To preserve exclusivity, Ferrari has pledged to keep Purosangue sales below 20% of total group shipments over the car's life-cycle, which is expected to be four-to-five years, as for its other models. That means an expected total production of just over 11,000 vehicles, marking a different approach from Lamborghini and Porsche, both part of the Volkswagen group, which last year made around 60% of their sales from SUVs. Deliveries will start in the second quarter of 2023, from Europe, with waiting lists expected to extend over coming years.
It took around four years to develop the Purosangue after Ferrari announced in 2018 it would build an SUV. Before that, the technology was not available to give a car weighing more than two tonnes a top sports performance, Galliera said. The "game changer" was an exclusive, electric-powered active suspension system Ferrari developed with Canadian partner Multimatic Inc, he added. Other key features include new architecture designed to give the car improved balance, independent four-wheel steering and a 6.5 litre, 725 horsepower engine.
Ferrari, which already has four hybrid cars in its range, has promised 15 new models between next year and 2026, including its first fully-electric car, expected in 2025.
($1 = 0.9824 euros)
(Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by Mark Potter)