THERE may be nervous uncertainty about what Ferrari’s imminent transformation into a public company will mean for Italy’s iconic carmaker. But in Maranello’s engine room there’s no doubt about the course ahead.
Amedeo Felisa is a 25-year Ferrari veteran with a solid engineering background who was appointed chief executive officer in 2008.
He understands that emotional engines bursting with energy are an essential part of the appeal of Ferrari’s road cars. At the 2015 Geneva motor show, where the 488 GTB with its downsized 3.9-litre turbocharged V8 was officially unveiled, he discussed Ferrari’s drivetrain strategy for the next five years.
Felisa made it clear Ferrari’s atmo 6.3-litre V12 will continue to evolve, growing in power as it does. Without the help of turbochargers.
“What we do not want to do is move to turbo on the 12,” he said. “6.3 litres of displacement with turbo [would] mean, ah, better than with turbo [would] mean, ah, better than Bugatti. But that does not make sense.”
Instead, Ferrari will focus on the “technical efficiency” of its big engine, incrementally improving fuel consumption at the same time as increasing power to around 590kW. “Which is what we are trying to do,” Felisa added.
“In what I can see until 2019, 2020, we are able to defend the 12-cylinder with the mix of the range,” he continued, alluding to the coming introduction of fleet-average emissions regulations for low-volume manufacturers like Ferrari. The increased efficiency of the new 3.9-litre turbo V8, used in both 488 GTB and the California T, can buy extra years for the V12, Felisa said.
“If we are able to combine the emissions of the different models, then of course we can have in the range some extra-emitting engines,” he said. “But we protect with the lower one. And, again, [the] 12-cylinder for me is one of the best Ferrari engines. We have to defend that.”
“I remember, I think [it] was 2007, or before 2007, we say the future will not ask for increasing power,” Felisa said. So Ferrari focused on emissions reduction. It didn’t play out the way he expected. In a good way… “What we have not forecasted at that time was the capacity of the engineers to go both directions,” he added. “The story now is exactly the same, because to reduce the emissions you have to increase the efficiency of the engine. If you increase the efficiency of the engine, you increase the power.”
Despite La Ferrari having battery-boosted performance, Ferrari’s efficiency drive doesn’t mean more hybrid drivetrains are on the way. “The level of the technology of today is not satisfactory for our cars,” he said. “For the small car, yes, for the high-performance car, not.”
Reducing the weight of La Ferrari to offset the effect of its 150kg of hybrid hardware added “thousands of euros of cost”, Felisa said. But such a solution doesn’t make sense for the company’s less costly models.
Surprisingly, Felisa confirmed Ferrari is at least thinking about electric propulsion.
He was asked if extreme sports cars had a future. “In my opinion, yes,” he replied. “And of course the sports car is connected to the sound. That’s the reason we don’t feel that the electric cars should be sports cars. They should be whatever, but not sports. But [it] is under discussion. And until now we are able to rule it out.”
In his view, slow progress in energy storage is another reason Ferrari isn’t ready to go electric, or hybrid, any time soon. “Why
the manufacturers of the battery are not entering something which is more clever than today, you can ask to someone else,” he said.
“Because the technology is there, but they are not manufacturing that.”
In contrast, Ferrari is a company devoted to progress. “If there is a technical solution that gives to you something better, why not go in that direction?”
Which explains Ferrari’s embrace of turbocharging, at least for its V8. “I think the technology of the turbo now is good enough for our cars,” Felisa said. “No one in the market today is able to do the V8 turbo with the time of response we are having on ours.
“Our customers are asking for that, because they like to continue to evolve.”