Dealing with Ferrari

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I bought my 1stFerrari 17 years ago from the Ferrari Dealership in Brussels.  Since then I have both acquired and had cars serviced at Ferrari dealerships in five countries. The experience overall has been quite mixed with patches of brilliance mixed with infuriation.  The early years were more of the former and the last five years have had a lot of the later.  This is probably why, despite having owned 16 Ferraris over the past 17 years, we are now down to one ( Acquiring the F40) and haven’t acquired a Ferrari in almost 3 years now.  

The first several Ferrari dealers I did business with were in Brussels, Antwerp, Lisbon, and Kassel. I was pretty green in the world of Ferrari at this point.  The first lesson I learned was trust but verify.  Neither of the two cars I bought in Belgium were quite what they were presented to be.  In the case of the F355 GTS, a cambelt change that was presented to have been recently done in fact hadn’t, and the brakes on the 550 Maranello were not nearly new as advertised but nearly needing replacement. Another lesson was never believe the “I will send you the service book and manuals later as I just can’t find them right now” routine.  As soon as you drive the car off the lot, your chances of ever seeing promised but missing documentation drop dramatically.  In fact, I’m still waiting for the service book for the 550 Maranello I bought in 2005.

In terms of negotiation, it was Eberlein Ferrari in Kassel that taught me to be patient when discussing major acquisitions.  Our F40 came from Eberlein and it took close to 3 months of negotiations before we finally agreed the deal.  Ironically, I originally went to Eberlein to look at a 365 GTB/4 Daytona but passed on it when I saw an F40 for sale close to the same asking price.  This turned out to be very fortunate as that Daytona threw a rod on a test drive a few months later.  It ended up needing a complete engine rebuild.  Visiting Eberlein was always interesting though as they had a warehouse behind the dealership which was like walking into a “Noah’s Ark” for Ferraris.  There were at least two examples of almost every Ferrari model produced since the early 60’s stored in there. 

I have two vivid memories from my service experiences with the Ferrari dealership in Lisbon in the mid 2000’s.  The first was with the F355 GTS.  It had just come back from the engine out cambelt service, and I was driving down the A5 highway when I started to smell gas.  I pulled over immediately and called for help.  It turned out one of the fuel lines was loose and in another several minutes we both likely would have ended up flambéed. The second was when I was in the process of registering the F40 in Portugal.  I had dropped it off at the Ferrari dealership to get the required local inspections completed.  One of the service managers then decided to take the car out for a “test drive” one evening without bothering to put dealer plates on it.  He got pulled over by the police and almost got the F40 impounded. I ended up having to get a local lawyer involved to sort out the mess.

It was around about this time that I joined Fiorano Ferrari.  Fiorano Ferrari was a track day club run by Ferrari UK that held private track days all across Europe.  It was a terrific program with an all-star list of instructors who could take you from track day novice to ready to race over the course of a season.  It was through this program that I really learned how to drive on a track and also came to appreciate the sizeable gap between a semi-talented amateur and a Le Man’s winning professional.  I also got to know the Ferrari UK management team fairly well during this period.  The Fiorano Ferrari program ran for about 5 years until it was blown up suddenly, for reasons that still escape me, by Dany Bahar, shortly after he become the Marketing Head for Ferrari Globally.  The less said about Dany the better.  Lotus fans tend to have even a dimmer view of his subsequent stint as CEO of Lotus Cars. It seems the main issue Ferrari HQ had with the Fiorano Ferrari program is it wasn’t their idea.  The fact that ending the Fiorano Ferrari program abruptly left about 30 Ferrari owners with 360 & 430 Challenge cars with no place/program to now use them didn’t seem to bother the powers that be in Maranello in the least.

When we lived in the UK, the dealership we used for both sales and service was Carrs Ferrari in Exeter. I can’t speak highly enough of Lee, Mark, and Harvey at Carrs.  They always were fair on the sales side and took terrific care of all of our Ferraris and even the Koenigsegg for a time.  When there were issues, Carrs was always very transparent and willing to take responsibility if fault lay on their side.  A great example of this was when the clutch on the F50 got cooked loading it into their transporter after a service.  Carrs immediately took responsibility and replaced the clutch free of change.  In another case, we had an electrical issue with the F40 during a trip in France, the Carrs’ mechanics spent over an hour on the phone working through a solution.  

It’s been a bit of a different story since we moved to the US.  On the service side, the local dealer in Texas, Boardwalk Ferrari, was been fine but service costs are significantly more expensive than what we used to pay in the UK.  On the sales side, it’s been pretty ugly.  When we first arrived, I went in and meet a few of Boardwalk’s sales team.  I mentioned that I was interested in acquiring a Scuderia 16M and was informed that Boardwalk didn’t have one in stock and didn’t expect to be getting one in anytime in the near future.  I asked if I found a 16M I liked within the Ferrari dealer network, could they bring the car in so could buy it from  Boardwalk.  No issue I was told, “happy to do it.”  After a few weeks search, I located a basically new 16M at the Ferrari dealer in Salt Lake City. We quickly agreed the parameters for a deal and I then called the saleswomen at Boardwalk to pass everything over.  She curtly informed me that Boardwalk had just changed their policy and would no longer source cars for clients from other Ferrari dealers. I then asked if at least I could have the 16M shipped to Boardwalk.  This too was now a no go as they did not want to be responsible for taking delivery of the car.  Long story short, what should have been a straight forward transaction turned into a very complicated mess.  In the end I did buy the car directly from Ferrari Salt Lake City but had to handle all the shipping, inspection, and local registration myself in the middle of a transatlantic move.  This was strike one for Boardwalk.  Strike two came a few months later when the same saleswomen (I understand she has since left Boardwalk Ferrari) called and said they had an extra 458 Speciale allocation and would I like to put in an offer for it.  I asked what the price of the car was and was told it was going to the person who puts in the highest offer.  When she wouldn’t give me the asking price, I told her I wasn’t interested as I have zero patience for these sort of sales practices.  For special cars, I’m happy to pay list but refuse to pay extortion to jump the line.  The third and final strike happened two years ago when I just happened to be driving by the dealership in the 599 GTB HGTE.  I spontaneously decided to stop in to take a look around.  They had several F12s on the showroom floor and we got into a discussion on a potential trade of the 599 for a F12.  What they offered for the 599 in trade was shockingly low (the 599 was traded in against the McLaren 720S several months later for $30k more) so that discussion ended quickly.  At this point, I am certainly done on the sales side with Boardwalk.

Across nearly two decades, I’ve had quite the range of experiences with both Ferrari SpA and Ferrari dealers.  It has ranged from terrific (Carrs of Exeter) to pretty awful (Boardwalk) with a bit of everything else in-between.  I have seen Ferrari create some terrific programs and events such as Fiorano Ferrari and the F40 Trophy ( F40 20th Anniversary) and then blown them up in internal power struggles.   Standing back, what really made a difference, both positive and negative, in each one of these situations was the attitudes and quality of the people in each of the different organizations

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May 2019

9 Comments

  1. TheFalcon says:

    Fascinating read – thanks for the write up!

    I’m an Aussie who lived in Texas for 4 years whilst on a basketball scholarship – I’d happily nuke the place. Couldn’t be less impressed by it and the people who make it.

  2. Stephen says:

    “This two was now a no go“ you might want to fix this to read “This too was a no go” otherwise loved the article very informative and the type of experience is it hard to otherwise find out about. Thanks

  3. Gary Sutton says:

    So one of the many lessons to take from these tales is that you shouldn’t take delivery of a car until you actually see the service documentation with your own eyes?

  4. Thomas Mao says:

    As always, an organization is only as good as the front facing individual (and the back office individual handling your specific paperwork)

    Unfortunately those also tend to be the weak links.

    Well written and enjoyable read, as always.

  5. Dino says:

    As a US resident and a Ferrari customer for 30 years, I have had a fair bit of experience with dealers. Most Ferrari stores treat customers like they are doing you a favor. My local store in Scottsdale I would not let them touch an old go kart or buy a magazine from…… let alone a car.

    It was early on in my Ferrari career that I learned of the ‘magical ‘list’ for new cars, that was always written in pencil and by simply sliding an expensive watch or an envelope full of cash across the sales manager’s desk, you were magically picking colors and options.

    And don’t get me going about service………

  6. […] manufacturers, in terms of allocation logic, the most straight forward seems to be Ferrari ( Dealing With Ferrari).  From what I have seen, Ferrari operates on a strict pay to play model.  The […]

  7. […] I reached out to Carrs vs. taking the F40 back to Boardwalk, whom I had little trust in (Dealing With Ferrari). Post a phone call with Carrs, the head mechanic, Harvey, immediately sent back a detailed list of […]

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