Ferrari is in the midst of one of the biggest periods of transition in its history, with Sergio Marchionne having recently taken over the role of chairman from Luca di Montezemolo and parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles [NYSE:FCAU] about to make the storied Italian marque public for the first time by listing it on the New York Stock Exchange. We’re now hearing that Ferrari is about to dramatically change the way it build its cars.
For more than six decades, Ferrari has built sports cars and super sports cars that are the benchmark in the sector, thanks in part to the close links with the automaker’s racing arm as well as the continual drive for greater performance and innovation. The cars have also tended to benefit from bespoke platforms and engines, which has lent each a distinct personality.
According to a report from Automobile, Ferrari’s future lineup of road cars, bar special series models like the LaFerrari, will move to a modular platform flexible enough to cater for cars with engines mounted in front of the cabin or behind it. The new platform is said to be a lightweight aluminum spaceframe design in which various powertrain, suspension and electronic modules can be swapped in and out with relative ease. The strategy is one the Volkswagen Group is also employing, with Porsche tasked with developing the German firm’s own modular sports car platform.
The new platform is said to be appearing initially in the replacement for the California, due in 2017, after which we’re likely to see it in a rumored modern-day Dino. Other models to be based on the platform will be the respective replacements for the 488 GTB, FF and F12 Berlinetta lines. But why aluminum and not carbon fiber like McLaren? According to the Prancing Horse, aluminum, while not as light and rigid as the carbon solution, has a better relationship of time and cost for production on a large scale and, at the same time, has the advantage of ease of maintenance.
In addition to the new platform, the Automobile report claims Ferrari is likely to continue its engine downsizing efforts. The new Dino, for example, is expected to feature a V-6 engine, and the FF replacement is said to forgo a V-12 in favor of a new V-8 engine shared with the 488’s replacement. Remember, one of the biggest challenges facing Ferrari is delivering excellent performance while reducing fuel consumption and emissions to a minimum.
The good news is that the V-12 will remain, though it will be augmented with hybrid technology to keep emissions down. Expect the hybrid V-12 powertrain to remain the domain of Ferrari’s top model and special series cars. Ferrari’s future hybrids will also be able to run on electric power alone for short distances. In fact, Ferrari already has a plug-in hybrid LaFerrari prototype that with a mix of electric-only and regular driving can produce CO2 emissions as low as 220 grams per kilometer—comparable to a small car.