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Why newly independent Ferrari may be forced into fuel-efficient cars

Tue, 04 Nov 2014 11:01:00 EST

The repercussions from Ferrari's pending transition into an independent automaker won't be understood for some time, but one of the biggest consequences could be that the iconic Italian marque will be forced into building more fuel-efficient vehicles.

As Wired points out, while Ferrari built fewer than 7,000 cars in 2013, its status as a public company could trigger pressure from shareholders to build more six-figure supercars and grand tourers. In turn, doing so could lead the company afoul of US Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which dictate that any company that sells over 10,000 vehicles needs to maintain a certain fuel economy average across its fleet or risk fines.

With arguably its most popular model, the 458 Italia, hitting just 17 miles per gallon on the highway and its most efficient model, the turbocharged California T, stuck at 18 mpg, Ferrari isn't in a great place to hit the government's mandates (which are somewhat convoluted as Wired explains). The gist of the situation is that Ferrari will either need to continue limiting the number of vehicles it sells each year – a move that's certain to upset shareholders and irk its boss, Sergio Marchionne – or radically improve the fuel economy of its cars at the risk of performance. Rock, meet hard place.

Ferrari does have options, as Wired explains it. The most obvious is to take the approach used on the new California T, which ditched its 4.3-liter V8 for a 3.9-liter, twin-turbocharged V8. Such an approach of downsizing through forced induction has been successfully applied across the industry, even in high-performance applications. The other option, which some enthusiasts may be loathe to consider, is a wider application of hybrid technology. The company has successfully built a hybrid hypercar with its LaFerrari, but there's no clear indication that its performance-oriented tech could be applied to improve fuel economy, let alone at a reasonable cost.

Another option that Wired points out may be even less desirable to enthusiasts, and would see Ferrari follow the example of Aston Martin. For a time, the British marque sold a rebadged Toyota iQ called Cygnet, as a means of bolstering its fleet economy. Ferrari could do the same, although we all know how things turned out for Aston.

Finally, and what we think might be the most logical option, is that Ferrari simply thumbs its nose at CAFE standards and accepts fines from the EPA for not meeting fuel efficiency standards. It's unclear how big those costs would be, but we doubt Ferrari sees any price as too big to continue with business as usual.

By Brandon Turkus

See also: Race Recap: 2014 US Grand Prix goes the English way yet again, NHTSA fines Ferrari $3.5 million for missing reports, Ferrari to be spun off from Fiat Chrysler.