Second-hand Ferraris in Belfast: an Italian titan in the shadow of the Titanic
Ferrari is offering extended warranties on its second-hand cars – is it a sign of recessionary times, or a sign that Ferrari has gotten smart?
A used 2011 Ferrari 458 can be yours for €200,000, but it’s pristine, with low mileage
This must be a really tough recession because now even the mighty Ferrari is offering buyers extended second-hand warranties and inclusive servicing packages.
To understand what an incredible turnaround that is, you must delve back into the history of Ferrari and remember that, essentially, Enzo Ferrari couldn’t give a fig about road cars. The sale of Ferraris with number-plates was simply done to create funds for the creation of Ferraris with racing numbers. It was Enzo’s famously dismissive attitude towards customer care that led Ferruccio Lamborghini to set up his own supercar company. Times have changed indeed.
The 458 Italia before me is a classic atomic doorstep of Ferrari road car: impossibly low, incredibly red and festooned with the sort of aerodynamic and styling detail that could only have come from Italy. The flexible vanes in the front air intake, which open wider at speed to feed air to the brakes, are a typical example of the sort of links Ferrari tries to draw between its road cars and its F1 team now. In fact, the relationship between road and race is now almost entirely reversed, and it’s the race team that’s there to generate interest and excitement in the road cars.
Not that they need any help, exactly. Our phalanx of Ferrari test cars is lined up in front of the dramatic facade of the Titanic museum in Belfast, but the steel-clad building isn’t getting any attention from the hordes of tourists today. Instead, they’ve clustered around our exotic exhibition, camera phones out and flashing. The Titanic tour guides must be furious.
We’re in Belfast, at Charles Hurst’s KIA showroom on Boucher Road, the only official Ferrari outlet on the island of Ireland, and the surprising thing is that every single car lined up in front of us is second-hand.
That seems hard to credit as I drop into the thigh-hugging leather seat of the 458 assigned to me. It looks and feels factory-fresh, but in fact it’s actually a 2011 model. Still, the piffling 5,000 miles on the odometer might be the reason for the fresh feeling. There are manufacturer press demo cars knocking about with higher mileages than that.
Possibly, it’s that typically low mileage that has prompted Ferrari to begin offering its approved used and inclusive service programme. The used setup is much as you get from other car brands these days. Each car undergoes a 190-point check, gets new fluids, brake pads, tyres (if the tread depth has dropped below 3mm) and any necessary repair or servicing work. It’s then packaged with a two-year factory warranty and, if it’s a post-2012 model, included in Ferrari’s unlimited mileage seven-year inclusive servicing package, which covers all regular maintenance costs. Hang on, are we sure this is haughty Ferrari and not populist Kia we’re talking about?
Yes, it is, and it’s simply because Ferrari has gotten smart and realised that many people’s first ownership encounter is with a second-hand Ferrari. Keen to keep buyers within the factory family, Ferrari has worked out that if you give used buyers the sort of care and attention that you give new buyers, the one eventually becomes the other.
There is another factor, and that’s the traditional perception of Ferraris as highly-strung, fragile cars. Certainly the likes of Porsche and Bentley have a much more robust image when it comes to everyday use, and Ferrari North Europe’s regional manager Matteo Torre confirmed to The Irish Times that reversing that perception was a key driver behind the Genuine Maintenance programme.
“I think our customers want to buy a car that is reliable and where they can track the history of the car,” he said. “We are so sure about the reliability of our cars that we have decided to give, all over the world, the seven years’ maintenance programme, including the parts.”
No Latin histrionics
Well, the 458 we drove certainly didn’t feel as if it needed anything new. There were no Latin histrionics in traffic, no stalling (the twin-clutch gearbox won’t let you do that) and no electrical maladies. The 458, with the right mix of chassis and gearbox settings, slides through morning Lagan-side traffic with the same smooth assurance you might expect from an Audi or a Lexus.
That all changes when we get out on to the quieter roads of the coast. Flick the fingertip-pleasing little Manettino switch to dial out the comfort settings and engage Race mode and the 458 becomes a proper snarling, prancing Ferrari. The engine noise from the 570hp V8 runs the gamut from low-bass burble to high-rev shriek, topped off with an artillery barrage of unburnt petrol making its way down the hot exhaust when you lift off the throttle. The paddle shifts (the traditional Ferrari chromed gearshift gate is, sadly, gone forever now) are lightning-fast and the 458 essentially handles like a giant, rocket-propelled go-kart. It’s pretty much viceless, even allowing you to slide the back end on the way out of damp roundabouts in the manner of a colossally expensive MkII Escort.
Now, all I need to do is scrape together the €200,000 asking price, and then the VRT on top. Ferrari may be offering its customers more now, but this is still a club with an exclusive entry price.