Passion

25 years of Ferrari in the Middle East

25 years of Ferrari in the Middle East

In 1994, Ferrari began its adventure in the Arab world, a region rich in history and culture with a diverse and mostly young clientele. And where entusiasts abound
Words

Damien Reid

The Middle East has always been fertile ground for Ferrari, but it wasn’t until the 1990s – in 1994, to be precise – that the company set up a distribution network for this region that ranges from Lebanon all the way across the Persian Gulf. Each country has distinctive cultural and demographic characteristics. In the early days of the Ferrari Middle East adventure, there were very different expectations toward the brand and the models. Over the years, the profiles of Ferrari owners in the region have changed but – thanks to its local presence - Maranello has kept up.

Excluding the expat community, typical Arab Ferrari owners are in their 40s – younger than most European clients – have a taste for Italian brands and luxury goods, and are passionate about sports cars. They are keen to have something rewarding for themselves and they enjoy owning a car that reflects their personality. Middle Eastern Ferraristi are also keen to distinguish themselves, which translates into a demand for a high level of personalisation. “This in itself becomes a competition, to have the first or the only version of a Ferrari, so it’s always an exciting and vibrant market,” explains Giorgio Turri, General Manager of Ferrari Middle East.

Celebrations for the 70th anniversary of Ferrari, in Qatar
Celebrations for the 70th anniversary of Ferrari, in Qatar

Ferrari clients enjoy visiting Maranello for Atelier meetings and indulging in Tailor Made options that give them complete control over customisation and the chance to order a car exactly as they want it. “They enjoy selecting the materials, choosing a bespoke colour and trim and being one hundred per cent confident that their car will not be duplicated anywhere else,” observes Turri. Most Ferrari clients travel extensively, they know Europe well and are very familiar with the car maker’s history.

Given this deep knowledge, unsurprisingly many clients prefer a 12-cylinder engine, which Enzo Ferrari believed to be the perfect motor. “The  percentage of V12 engines in this region is higher than in the rest of the world because our clients want the best and the V12 will always be our flagship,” remarks Wilhelm Hegger, who served as Ferrari Sales Director Middle East, Africa and India from 2011 to 2015. Knowledge about the marque extends to its sporting ventures, so it’s no surprise to find that - despite the fact Formula One has only been in the region since 2004 - there has been a long-established love for Ferrari on the race-track.

Prancing Horse clients are often tifosi, something that was helped by the arrival of Formula 1 racing in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, in 2004 and 2009, respectively. Marco Sambaldi, Ferrari  regional marketing director from 2009-2017, recalls the impact of the GP’s arrival in the region: “I felt like I was in the place where a new outlook was being born. You could feel the energy of this new beginning, both for Ferrari and the Emirates.” Racing enthusiasm has other benefits, too, as it encourages many clients to try their hand at becoming ‘gentleman racers’ with the help of the Ferrari Corso Piloti and Corse Clienti programmes.

Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, which has become one of the region's leading tourist attractions, opened in 2010
Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, which has become one of the region's leading tourist attractions, opened in 2010

For this reason, the Prancing Horse is working on a race programme just for the Middle East, and clients also have access to other international Ferrari programmes - like the Challenge series in Europe, North America and Asia - which are all within reasonable distance of the region. Other initiatives have also helped keep passion for the Prancing Horse alive. In November 2010, the first-ever Ferrari theme park – Ferrari World Abu Dhabi – opened.

“It was like a part of Italy that had entered into the Emirates,” remarks Sambaldi. While creating fun experiences for clients and fans is certainly important, another – no less important – task is to keep customers coming back for more. “Our goal is to continually exceed our clients’ expectations and nurture our base to make sure that the next generation will include not only new members but also the children of our present clients,” Turri says. “They are now enjoying the Ferrari experience as children and we look forward to one day seeing them having the same fun behind the wheel as their parents enjoy now.”

Ferrari