Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo poses next to the California after the car’s unveiling at the Paris Motor Show. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
As the financial crisis rages, there is still glamour amid the gloom - and not just from the models pouting next to sexy new cars at the Paris Motor Show.
On the Ferrari stand, the glamor is red and topless and comes in the form of the new California, a coupe-cabriolet with a retractable hard top.
CEO Amedeo Felisa said the car combines the purring, powerful performance of the Ferrari, with features designed for people who want more fun from their high speed car, and will help boost sales to record levels.
By fitting an 8-cylinder engine on the front of the car, Ferrari has left enough space in the back for children, some Louis Vuitton luggage, a pair of skis, or - over short distances - a couple of adult passengers.
"If you go out for the evening and you find two splendid girls, you can bring them home - if you are lucky enough - and normally the car helps with that," Felisa, who was also the California's engineer, said in an interview.
The car takes less than 4 seconds to accelerate from 1 to 100km/h and runs at a blistering 310km/h at top speed.
Felisa said Ferrari has made efforts to make its latest offering greener without compromising on performance. Consumption of 13.1 litres per 100km and carbon emissions of 305 grams per kilometre, make it one of the greenest sports cars around, he said.
Of course, a Ferrari still consumes a lot more fuel than a regular car, and Felisa acknowledged the luxury car maker cannot ignore environmental sensibilities.
"We understand that this is a real issue and we have to do our part," he said.
But, given the paucity of Ferrari drivers and the limited distances they drive their cars, "we are not the problem."
Despite the financial crisis, some 6 000 people have expressed interest buying a California, which retails for around $247 000, even before Ferrari opened its book for orders.
"What is affecting Ferrari customers is not the financial times," said Felisa, noting that the Wall Street bankers who lost their jobs in recent weeks amount to only a small minority of the carmaker's clients.
Ferrari expects 2008 to be another record breaking year, with "more or less constant" sales in US and Europe topped up by growth in countries such as Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, he said.
Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo said in a press conference that he hopes the financial crisis may help remove some of the distortions of the market, which he sees as people paying to jump up in the waiting list for a Ferrari or selling their Ferrari contract.
The waiting list is an important tool in maintaining an exclusiveness that people are willing to pay money for. Montezemolo explained that the Italian company always supplies less than the market demands.
"Ferrari is like a good looking woman: you have to desire her," he said.
Last year, Ferrari delivered 6 465 cars, an increase of 14% from 2006 to meet demand in new markets "without losing one inch of exclusivity" in regular markets, Montezemolo said.