Into the bizarre, often tacky, lowest-common-denominator world of the theme park steps a new player. Having mastered Formula 1 and the supercar, Ferrari is getting into the family-fun business.
The tifosi are, to say the least, perplexed. For decades, we have desired Ferrari because it has won world championships and built cars with inspired, intricate engineering and pornographic visual appeal. But for years, other than doing what it did best, Ferrari did absolutely nothing to encourage that desire. Quite the opposite: Enzo Ferrari was famously dismissive of those who bought his road cars, regarding them as the dupes who paid for his racing. Ferrari doesn't advertise or sponsor celebrities or, until now, attempt in other ways to persuade us to want it. Mystique doesn't work that way. There was good business sense in the Old Man's rudeness; pretty girls call it playing hard to get.
The money Ferrari makes from activities other than racing and carmaking -- activities that feed off its storied reputation, rather than burnishing it -- is growing. The Ferrari World theme park in Abu Dhabi is the company's latest, most visible, and most controversial "brand extension," but there is a dizzying array of others. The average client now spends around $25,000 customizing his car with Ferrari's "personalization" service. Clients can buy and run an old Formula 1 car with the Corse Clienti program, play at being a factory test driver with the FXX and 599XX programs, do a season's racing in an F430 Challenge, have their vintage Ferraris restored at the factory's Classiche department, learn to drive better on a Pilota course, and choose from a range of lavishly tooled and immensely expensive accessories.
For the fans (clients buy cars, fans buy coffee mugs, and Ferrari's marketing effort makes a clear distinction between the two), there are Ferrari-licensed netbooks from Acer, goggles from Nannini, and bicycles from Colnago as well as perfumes, jewelry, and kids' schoolbooks. Nearly forty Ferrari stores in city centers and airport departure lounges around the globe sell an astonishing range of Ferrari-branded official merchandise, from the expected mugs and T-shirts to the bizarre: deodorant, surfboards, and race-suit-style infant sleepers.