The start, both in music and the car world, is fundamental to success. It’s therefore no great surprise that the first thing in common between Vincenzo Regazzoni, Chief Manufacturing Officer of Ferrari, and Daniel Harding, one of the world’s most eminent orchestra conductors, emerged about 30 seconds into the conversation.
On entering the area where Ferrari’s eight-cylinder cars are manufactured, Regazzoni mentions that the building was designed by Jean Nouvel. ‘That’s strange,’ Harding says, ‘the Paris theatre where my main orchestra is based was designed by Nouvel too. It’s really surprising,’ he continues, as he looks around. ‘I didn’t expect Nouvel to be capable of making something without using black.’
Indeed, the space we are in is light, airy and bright, and looks anything but an industrial assembly line: it is like being in an operating theatre rather than a workshop. ‘The reason is simple,’ explains Regazzoni, ‘every Ferrari is different. There are so many specifications, so many possibilities, that we never make two identical cars. The interiors can be ordered in any material.’
One customer wanted sharkskin interiors. ‘And did you provide it for him?’ Harding asks. ‘We did our best,’ replies Regazzoni, with a smile. Which brings us to the heart, the crux of our conversation.
How do you make the most of a group of people? When building a car, as when playing a symphony, sharing an objective doesn’t mean sharing a plan of action. But one thing’s certain: everyone must do their best.
‘There are orchestras that love to be guided, that consider the conductor to be a metronome, and need to be told what to do,’ explains Harding. ‘There are others that must be coordinated, that must be made to agree. My mentor, Claudio Abbado, used this method, which is mine, too, to some extent. “Listen to the first violin,” he said to the wind instruments. “Listen to the cellos,” he said to the violins.
‘In other words, he tried to establish connections. In this way, the orchestra becomes a network, a tight sequence of relationships such that even if one breaks, the network is still able to communicate effectively within itself.’
Regazzoni nods. ‘Every car is different. This means that each worker, on every car, has to work in the same situation but not do exactly the same thing. It would be absurd to teach a robot to be so versatile. Here at Ferrari, automatic operations are reduced to a minimum precisely because each car is different. But really different. I don’t think we’ve ever made two identical cars. Even if we wanted to, it would be difficult.’
If you buy a Ferrari, you expect something exceptional as standard. Just like those who go to listen to Harding conducting. ‘This, I believe, is a fundamental point,’ explains Harding. ‘I think that each one of us, when we go to listen to an orchestra conducted by someone, projects our expectations not only on to what we’re going to hear, but also on to the conductor.
‘In practice, it’s his reputation not only as a conductor, but above all as a person who influences our judgement.’
Even a Ferrari, from a definition point of view, is a car. Then you get in, turn on the engine, and the sound you hear can’t be defined as the “noise of a car starting”. It’s not a noise; it’s a tribute to what people can do if they put in the effort, whether as engineers, orchestra conductors or end-users of a rare case of a contemporary work of art that anyone can admire.