Maranello, Italy —A tour of the factory where Ferrari assembles its GT (Granturismo) road cars was like no other that I've had. First off, you can't help but notice the enthusiasts who stop in front of the unobtrusive front gate just to take their pictures with the plant's sign in the background.
Once inside, the relatively low noise level for an automotive factory is one striking feature (another is the numerous potted plants at the corners of each work area). Why is it so quiet? First off, only 14 cars per day are made during the two daily shifts. Second, many components are made to Ferrari specs elsewhere by suppliers, and no heavy foundry work is done, since vendors furnish rough cranks, blocks, and cams. These are machined on the floor but within enclosed CNC machines in an area off the production line. Prior to machining, an 8-cylinder engine crank, for instance, weighs in at 72 kg (158 lbs), but afterward is pared to 22 kg (48 lbs). Ferrari does do light foundry work for some trim and body components in a separate building (see map).
But while machining is computerized, the rest of the car, as one would expect, is built by hand. A team of workers takes a day and a half to assemble each V8 engine. On the other hand, in a Ferrari tradition, only one person builds each V12, which takes three days. All engine builders sign off on what tasks they do, and all are expected to develop every engine assembly skill needed. Naturally, the oldest workers end up making most of the 12 cylinders, a source of personal pride. Testers then run each engine for a 3-hr performance check (which takes a similar amount of time to both set up and knock down) before it is put into a car.
Ferrari's operation in Maranello includes the 2,000-worker production car facilities, the racing operation (Gestione Sportiva) employing 600, and the Fiorano test track (one of two owned by the company).
Separate production lines run for the 8- and 12-cylinder cars. Because about 70% of production is 8-cylinder cars, the 12-cylinder line may be used to make 8s if demand calls for it. The 8s spend 50 minutes (the V12 cars 80 minutes) at each of eight stations before the line moves the cars to the next station. You may think putting these cars together is like watchmaking, but because they are hand crafted, every once in a while a worker needs to rap a recalcitrant part into place with a rubber mallet. I even saw someone using a file to get a piece to comply.
In the upholstery shop, "cookie cutter" forms are placed in a press to cut the 18 leather shapes needed for a 360 Modena (8-cylinder) interior, for example. The small production flow precludes the expense of procuring a more modern laser cutter.
At the end of the line is the Initial Customer Perception Station, where an inspector gives each car the once over as a new owner would, looking for the most minor flaws. Once off the line, another group of technicians tests each car for two days.
Order please. Ferraris come in 16 exterior colors (most popular: Ferrari red, of course) and 13 interior leather colors—combinations of which may be rejected if deemed "inappropriate." The customer can also choose leather stitching color and style. If you opt for a Ferrari badge on the side, a different fender molding has a recess to hold it. This year personalization also includes special badges commemorating Ferrari's win of last year's Formula One drivers' championship (see page 60). All trim options and customized features move through the factory on a single cart designated for each individual car and tagged with the customer's "menu."
Finally, if you do have six figures to plunk down for a Ferrari (no cars are built without a firm order), you'll have a wait of at least two to three years. The Microsoft millionaire touring the plant with me said he was told four years for his! Maybe that's because he ordered a white one.