Ferrari and customisation have gone hand in hand since the 1950s, and today the opportunities to lend a personal touch to your cherished car are almost endless. Luxury London heads to Ferrari’s headquarters in northern Italy to experience the Tailor-Made programme
One TripAdvisor review of the Ferrari factory in Maranello, in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, describes visiting the site as no less than a ‘religious experience’. Such a proclamation could be taken with a pinch of salt were it not treated so seriously by the purveyors of the prancing horse themselves.
Luxury brands have always sought to create a compelling backstory for their products, imbuing them with a sense of quality and value beyond what can be seen or touched. Turning the retail process from an impassive transaction into an emotional experience has been expertly mastered by Ferrari. The iconic Italian sportscar maker has married a powerful brand identity with a strategic business model to produce what is every company’s Holy Grail: deep-seated customer loyalty.
Ferrari effectively operates on a ‘made-to-order’ basis, always producing one car fewer than the demand of the market. Consequently, while other car makers are forever sitting on unsold stock, Ferrari has none. The beauty of this model is that it is self-perpetuating: exclusivity works organically to create a recurrent level of fresh demand.
Endowing every Ferrari owner with a sense that they’ve attained something unobtainable to the masses is enhanced by extensive customisation options. In short, every new Ferrari leaving the assembly line has undergone some level of personalisation, with not one sold in standard form.
The genesis of this directive can be traced back to the 1950s and ’60s, when it was standard practice for skilled craftsmen to mould every aspect of a Ferrari to its owner’s tastes, similar to how a Savile Row tailor is enlisted for a bespoke suit. Then, in the late 1990s, Ferrari customers began choosing the colours and fabrics to build their dream automobile and, in 2011, this was ramped up to the next level with the introduction of the Tailor-Made programme. Under this arrangement, clients get to make personalisation choices not at their local dealership but in a dedicated studio at the Ferrari factory in Maranello, home to Ferrari’s production line for more than 70 years.
Every new Ferrari leaving the assembly line has undergone some level of personalisation, with not one sold in standard form
Customers who sign up for the programme are flanked by a personal designer who assists them in creating their car, only stepping in when their wishes are deemed inconsistent with the Ferrari brand (a request for zebra-skin trim or all-denim seating, for example, would not make the grade).
Customisation is offered in three collections: Scuderia (inspired by Ferrari’s rich racing heritage); Classica (which takes styling cues from classic Ferrari GTs); and Inedita (geared towards experimentation and innovation). Clients may specify everything from the exterior livery to the cabin trim, via a choice of finishes, accessories, materials, treatments and shades.
I was invited to experience this for myself earlier this year; the crucial unfortunate difference being that the car I was to design would not make it beyond a computer screen.
On arrival, I was taken to the studio to meet the design team, who occupy a large room bedecked with Ferrari paraphernalia and a real-life California T – the hard-top convertible grand tourer launched by Ferrari in 2014 and my canvas for the day.
Keen to test the programme’s experimental prowess, I request that my car is personalised from the vaunted Inedita collection. I am taken through to a room that can only be described as resembling the curtain department in Liberty. The range of textiles seems never-ending: Alcantara, tech fabrics, cashmere, velvet, leather, carbon-fibre…there’s even a bulletproof option. Little wonder that years of research have gone into the 200-plus materials available.
Clients who have a certain textile in mind can ask the design team to source it for them – although they must always meet strict guidelines. Eco-friendly, sustainable and natural materials are prioritised, while cabin materials have to be flameproof and, depending on their use, also need to meet the criteria for load, grip and wear.
With my materials chosen, I get to work on the exterior, eschewing the classic red livery and opting for ‘Blue Chiaro’, a bright blue. For contrast, I ask for yellow calipers and a silver Nike-esque swoosh across the car’s side panels, while diamond finish rims and silver exhaust pipes add a dash of bling.
For the interior, I ask the designer to show me graphics of the various seating options. I settle on light brown, but in their central part I add vertical ribs in a beige woollen fabric. Elsewhere, I add a few more colour effects with a yellow rev counter, yellow Ferrari insignia in the centre of the steering wheel, blue seatbelt straps and blue sterling leather on the airbag zones. Finally, perhaps it’s my yachting background, but I can’t resist adding a spot of teak on the grab handles, tunnel inserts and across the inside of the boot. You can judge the results for yourself.
As for my general thoughts on the Tailor-Made programme, there’s no doubting the benefits of engaging customers in the design process and, for car owners, it certainly creates a more powerful connection than simply buying off the assembly line.
Cars have an almost unique capacity to inspire passion, emotion and excitement. When it comes to those particular realms of human experience, Ferrari remains the benchmark for all others.