If you're one of the 232,000 Australians with a net worth beyond $5 million, then your first Ferrari may have just arrived in Australia.
The Ferrari Portofino Spider is an all-new replacement for the California T launched in 2014, and at $398,888 it's Ferrari's most affordable model. Speaking at the Portofino's Australian Premiere ahead of its September release, Ferrari Australasia CEO Herbert Appleroth said the Prancing Horse's latest convertible has big shoes to fill.
"Seventy per cent of people who bought the California and the California T were new to the Ferrari brand. It was their first Ferrari … We have big expectations for the Portofino, but we know it has the right mix of style, elegance and understated luxury."
Why not "performance" as well? "It's a Ferrari", Mr Appleroth responds. "That's a given."
The art of the brand
Ferrari's decision to rebrand its $400K entry-level performance grand tourer may seem strange, but it's in step with company practice. In this day and age of businesses investing heavily in brands, Ferrari has made rebranding — often seen as a step backwards, or a way of shedding negative baggage — an art form, and part of the reason its business is so successful.
So much so, that in 2017 Ferrari again topped Brand Finance's ranking of the world's most powerful brands, putting it ahead of corporate giants like Apple, Google, Nike and Coca-cola.
Interestingly, Ferrari doesn't take this world-beating commitment to brand power beyond the company's top level. None of Ferrari's current cars inherited their predecessor's name. For example Ferrari's current flagship GT is the 812 Superfast, which replaced the F12 tdf in 2017, which in turn succeeded the 599 GTB Fiorano in 2012.
The power of exclusivity
Can you imagine Porsche rebranding the 911, or Mercedes the S-Class, or Apple renaming the iPhone? For Ferrari, however, the constant renewal of model names is about ensuring exclusivity among its passionate owner base. Tell somebody you own a 599 and they know exactly which car you have, and that you are one just 2424 people globally to park this V12-engined thoroughbred in your garage.
Tell somebody you own a 911, however, and there are more than a million others like you (as of May 2017) with a car aged anywhere from one day to 53 years old.
This commitment, and subsequent refusal to build sub-brands, has worked incredibly well for the company to date. No doubt continuing to do so as it pursues company Chairman Sergio Marchionne's vision of sales "well in excess of 10,000 cars by 2025".
For the record, Ferrari sold 8398 cars in 2017, up five per cent year on year. Australians bought 210 Ferraris last year, 10 percent more than the year before. Business, says Herbert Appleroth, is good thanks to the "inherent stability of the Australian economy".
From the moment we were allowed to look and touch, but not drive (right hand drive models will start arriving in July), the Portofino appears to have everything it needs to contribute positively to the company's sales targets.
The new Portofino shares the outgoing California T's wheelbase, and has close to the same external dimensions, but the all-aluminium chassis has been totally reworked to make the body stronger yet also 80kg lighter.
The California T's 3.9-litre turbocharged V8 has also come in for intensive reworking, extracting 30kW more power. The end result is 0-100km/h in 3.5 sec, one-tenth quicker than the Cali T.
Pleasure in the details
A new, sharper exterior design evokes the muscular intent and visual magnetism of the 812 Superfast, the brand's V12 GT flagship. The cabin has also been completely renewed, and now has 18-way adjustable seats and a suite of touchscreens including one integrated into the passenger-side dash which can display, among other things, vehicle speed.
Overseas reports confirm that this all-new Ferrari is also a much sharper and more exciting drive than its predecessor.
There's more legroom inside, the boot is bigger, and new electric steering makes it less tiresome around town. Oh, and the folding hardtop can now be lowered and raised on the go, at speeds below 40km/h.
Good on paper
The Portofino ticks all the boxes on paper, and in overseas tests.
When we get our first Australian drive later this year, it's likely to reinforce not just our first impressions of the car, but also that Ferrari knows what its customers want, and knows how to give it to them.
Perhaps that's why Australia has the third largest Ferrari Owners' Club in the world, trailing only the United States and Japan, countries with many times our population. And, with a potential new customer base of 232,000 Australians with sufficient net worth to buy this car, the Portofino is only going to make that club bigger.