Ferrari’s entry-level RM1m Portofino confronts RM11m Mercedes

By BLOOMBERG

A Ferrari NV Portofino entry-level supercar stands after unveiling during the first media preview day of the IAA Frankfurt Motor Show in Frankfurt. Pic: Bloomberg

FRANKFURT • Ferrari NV is introducing a new “entry-level” supercar, while Mercedes-Benz is testing the segment’s upper price limit as the rivals vie for the world’s most lucrative customers.

Ferrari is rolling out the €200,000 (RM1.01 million) Portofino, which will replace the Italian brand’s California convertible, at the Frankfurt International Motor Show. Mercedes’s AMG high-performance sub-brand is highlighting the Project ONE concept, which sports Formula 1 hybrid technology and has a whopping price tag of €2.2 million.

The models are crucial to the strategic plans of both automakers. Ferrari is banking on the Portofino to help boost sales to 9,000 cars in 2019 — up from a target of 8,400 this year. For parent Daimler AG, AMG is critical to CEO Dieter Zetsche’s effort to show that his electrified offerings will still be upscale and sporty.

Lamborghini is also wrestling with the changing dynamics in the super segment, especially as parent Volkswagen AG embarks on a €20 billion push to electrify its entire line-up. The first sign of that shift for the exotic Italian brand will come later this year with the unveiling of the Urus, which Lamborghini teased in a video in Frankfurt as the world’s first “super SUV”. The model will also be the brand’s first hybrid.

“The next step for Lamborghini will be for sure hybridisation,” Stefano Domenicali, the brand’s chief, said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “But these iconic cars have to be different from others, so this is really the position we need to keep in order to keep alive the dream.”

A gull wing door sits open on a Mercedes-Benz AMG Project One hypercar during the first media preview day of the IAA Frankfurt Motor Show in Frankfurt. Pic: Bloomberg

At AMG, that means ratcheting up the exclusivity factor by making just 275 of the Project One, which has a fin running down the middle and reaches a top speed of 350kph (220mph). In line with Mercedes’ €10 billion plan for electrified models, the V6 gas engine will be complemented with plug-in hybrid technology. The extra battery boost will also make the two-seater more responsive on initial acceleration, hitting 200kph in six seconds.

“The objective is forward-looking technology, ultimate performance, the best lap times,” Zetsche said on Monday night at the unveiling of the Project One featuring race-car driver Lewis Hamilton. “And all of it road legal.”

For Ferrari, spun off from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV in 2016, the Portofino is less about technology than expansion as it seeks to gradually increase sales to boost profit, with a goal of eventually pushing past the 10,000 mark for deliveries. The Portofino’s sales will amount to about 3,200 cars, 40% more than the California’s deliveries this year, according research company IHS Markit.

CEO Sergio Marchionne is equipping the hard-top convertible with a 600hp engine. The car can accelerate to 100kph in as little as 3.5 seconds. The car is lighter and its eightcylinder engine offers 40hp more than its predecessor.

The Maranello-based manufacturer showed off the model to the wider public for the first time yesterday following a customers-only unveiling last week in the picturesque Italian harbour town of Portofino.

The business plan is likely to include adding “utility vehicles” to Ferrari’s line-up, according to Marchionne, who avoids using the term SUV. — Bloomberg