Amedeo Felisa is pressed for time. He has been in the office since 7 a.m., and now he’s almost ready to go home for dinner, only to return again for the final 9-to-11 p.m. session. Felisa loosens his already loose tie by another inch, leans back in a high-tech yet creaking leather chair, glances at his wristwatch. What about the rumored entry-level Ferrari, the reborn Dino, a $175,000 sports car that would sit quite comfortably below the 458 and the California? The CEO-cum-chief engineer grins a steely grin, hits his ballpoint pen hard on the desk, then puts his poker face back on and slowly shakes his head. “You don’t want to understand, do you? Believe me, there is no such Ferrari. We have no intention of increasing our production volume beyond what it takes to satisfy the growing demand of new markets like China and Russia.” So, no response to the changing times? “I didn’t say that,” Felisa quips, and this time the broad smile is genuine. “The weight of our cars has to come down, the aerodynamic efficiency must improve, and now that Formula 1 is about to agree to switch to six-cylinder engines, a downsized powerplant may become acceptable for our next entry-level road car.”
At present, the R&D team is busy putting the finishing touches on the new 599. The next top-of-the-line GT retains the current front-engine layout and the familiar transaxle gearbox. The main detail change concerns the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic we know from the rest of the range. Lower, lighter, and tied down by ground-effects aerodynamics, the two-seater will be powered by a V-12 that is expected to develop 700 hp. The same engine is slated for the Enzo replacement, which may be badged F70 and is set to bow this fall. The normally aspirated engine is said to displace 7.3 liters, and the maximum output of the high-revving unit will be a whopping 800 hp. On top of that, there is a KERS package that includes a 120-hp electric motor for a grand total of 920 hp — or for zero-emissions travel.
Since the weight target of the carbon-fiber supercar was clearly inspired by the Millechili (1000 kilogram, or 2200 pound) concept, the F70 should come close to the track-only FXX, which weighed 2550 pounds. The F70 could potentially be quicker off the mark and faster overall than the 1001-hp Bugatti Veyron. On a sadder note, it may be the swan song for the V-12, which in all probability will eventually be superseded by a twin-turbo V-8.
In mid-2012, another lightweight Ferrari is due in dealer showrooms. After a few sessions at the local gym, the 458 Challenge is expected to emerge with a 150-pound weight loss and a 30-hp gain in power output, to 600 hp.
Debuting at the Geneva Motor Show, the face-lifted California is on a totally different mission. The Pininfarina-designed retractable hardtop is in the process of being beautified by Ferrari’s own design team under Flavio Manzoni, and it gets a round of tech updates to match.
Satchel in hand and jacket over the shoulder, Felisa fields one last question. “No, Ferrari won’t do a four-door sport sedan. We won’t do a crossover, either. That’s Maserati turf.”
Amedeo Felisa, 65
Personality: Serious and somber yet friendly, Felisa is missing the flamboyant gene that seems to be attached to every other major Ferrari player. Which is probably best, since his boss, Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, is in the spotlight.
Major career moves: A Fiat Auto man since 1972, when he joined Alfa Romeo, eventually rising through the ranks to become head of product development. Moved to Ferrari in 1990, assuming additional responsibilities with every promotion. Replaced Jean Todt as omnipotent CEO in 2008.
Biggest achievement: Promotes green technology as a must-have for a socially responsible sports car maker.
Claim to fame: Convinced Fiat not to ask for a dividend from Ferrari. Instead, Enzo’s company can keep the profits and spend them on fresh products — and on motor racing.