A work of art on the road

Dan Neil behind the wheel of the Ferrari 599, with Kai Ryssdal in the passenger seat.

PHOTO GALLERY: Ferrari Fun

KAI RYSSDAL: We are here, outside the Frank Stanton Studio in our lovely parking garage, with our car guy, Dan Neil from the LA Times. Hey, Dan.

DAN NEIL: Hi, Kai. Nice to be here.

RYSSDAL: Nice to be here with you and this car. What have we today?

NEIL: This erotic piece of sculpture is the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano. It is the latest and greatest license killer from Maranello in Italy. And it's some kinda car.

RYSSDAL: Now, the last couple of times you've been with us, it's been all about alternative fuels and plug-in hybrids and all that sensible stuff that Detroit is trying to do. We're not going to talk about that today, are we?

NEIL: No. This car has a rather black heart on that score. It gets about — I don't know — 9, 11 miles per gallon. But the redeeming virtue is that you don't drive it very far.

RYSSDAL: That's right. But you do it very, very fast.

NEIL: Yes. That's true.

RYSSDAL: Detroit, as we both know, has been having a really difficult couple of years. Not so with Ferrari. Their business is really almost too good.

NEIL: Ferrari has an enviable problem. They've got far too many customers to satisfy. This is especially true because there's so much new wealth in the market. And their business model is all about exclusivity. You know, Ferrari doesn't just sell to anybody off the street. And this has created a vast, secondary market for Ferraris.

RYSSDAL: What would you have to pay to get, say, one of these if you were on a waiting list.

NEIL: Well, these are too new, really, to be in the country. But I'll give you an example: The Ferrari F-430 Spider has a retail of about $204,000, and there's a two-year waiting list if you go through a dealer. However, if you go on E-Bay, you can get one for a mere — let's see, I have it here — $329,000. That's a $125,000 mark-up. And, so, thank you Lamborghini of Houston.

RYSSDAL: Can't they just make these cars faster?

NEIL: No, Ferrari, as I say, their business model is all about exclusivity. There is a theoretical limit to how many cars they can make in Maranello. All Ferraris have to be made on that hallowed ground. And, so, they can't open another factory. And more than that, they really only want, you know, about 1,500 cars a year imported to the U.S. However, emerging markets — China, Russia, Brazil — now those . . . they can build cars for those markets.

RYSSDAL: Let's go for a ride.

NEIL: OK.

[SOUND: Car starting up]

RYSSDAL: There's a ridiculous amount of information on that dashboard.

NEIL: Yes, there is.

RYSSDAL: You can't possibly take that in.

NEIL: There's tire pressure, tire temperature. . . . This thing will tell you if you're brakes . . . the state of your brake wear. [CRUNCH!] Oops, scraped the bottom!

RYSSDAL: Ohhhhh!

NEIL: Sorry.

RYSSDAL: Oh, yeah, cuz we gotta make that green light, Dan!

NEIL: That's very important!

RYSSDAL: All right. Good.

NEIL: You'll notice the brakes are sensational.

RYSSDAL: They are. They absolutely are.

NEIL: I love that sound! This car makes all your rock 'n' roll fantasies come true. It is a dream weaver.

RYSSDAL: Walk me through this thing. What you think about when you're driving it.

NEIL: My first impression, when I got the car a few days ago was that I couldn't believe that any car that can do what this car can do on the track is so civil, so supple, and so easy to drive. This is truly — I mean, a lot of car companies say it — but this is truly an everyday supercar.

RYSSDAL: Two things. I wasn't as scared as I sounded. And, two, we took some pictures while Dan was here. They're online at Marketplace.org.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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