When I first met Mr. Dieter last year, I was shocked to see how down-to-earth a man he was in providing his views and thoughts for that short chat we had. In spite of his crisply decked out suit, he was a friendly encounter, something I can tell you is a rarity when you quiz a person of his stature. This time around, Ferrari’s Far East CEO was even more relaxed, seated with me without his jacket on but wearing his thoughts on Ferrari’s developments ever proudly.
“The Far East is a good example of our increased stability and how we manage customer deliveries very well, doing a good job in the big markets. Things have even grown in markets like Australia, which is good,” said Knechtel on how things have been going from his hot seat. He was in Kuala Lumpur, as part of a collaborative event to kickstart Ferrari’s 70th Anniversary celebrations here in Malaysia with the local launch of the la Ferrari Aperta.
The man from Vienna, Austria has been at the helm of Ferrari’s East Hub division since April 2015, beginning as Managing Director up until now as Chief Executive Officer. He came to Ferrari after serving and leading key positions in the automobile sector for the last two decades. Dieter is responsible for Ferrari operations in Asia Pacific, which covers North Eas Asia, South East Asia and Australasia. With his long-sighted acumen and industry experience, no one else at the event space was in a better position to talk to me about Ferrari’s method for success and excellence.
“70 years is a long time and no doubt, there are other brands that are much older than us yet Ferrari has still accumulated a lot of achievements for itself along the way. In this sense, Ferrari has a strong reputation in terms of consistency, exclusivity and in being loyal to ourselves, to our DNA, always incorporating the many elements of our heritage, never forgetting where we come from,” remarked Dieter. He was keen to highlight how this striving for being consistent all the time has two very crucial components, one of which is in providing something new with each new Prancing Horse that runs out of its stables in Modena.
“With each new Ferrari that is launched, it almost always comes with new technology, usually derived from our Formula1 race cars,” said Dieter. He further added how the luxury marque is committed to staying true to its racing heritage whilst bringing forth innovation at every occasion. “In fact, our cars are always being awarded something new each year, like how our V8 engine was awarded best international engine in its class, similar to how our V12 engines are also known for striking awards as well.”
This constant push for innovation has undoubtedly placed Ferrari at the very top of performance-based supercars and they are undoubtedly built on a long-line of iconic Ferrari’s, right from the first 125 S up until the amazing hypercar feat that is the La Ferrari. Despite its boutique-sized factory, Dieter believes it is this sense of heritage that has allowed Ferrari to be consistent for the last seven decades. “We consider ourselves as a boutique factory, which is why we’re true to our heritage but we never forget to innovate,” said Dieter as he went on to elaborate how Ferrari have now built up a customer portfolio that is determinedly loyal to the brand, despite the competition.
“In this sense, our customers can always trust us. After decades of consistency, they will know that we can deliver only the best. He or she will know that they’re getting a car that is at the very top in terms of technology and even with each new car launched, at the very least, it is usually one of the fastest if not the fastest.”
This recipe of maintaining engineering excellence and exclusivity is almost unique to Ferrari, a brand that lives and breathes out in the exciting world of motorsports. It is the oldest and most successful Formula One team in existence, with a record 16 constructors’ Championships, and a record 15 Drivers’ Championships for the Scuderia Ferrari team. Even a quick look at some of the names that have raced for Ferrari’s F1 team is a giveaway to how much attention is given to innovation; Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Mike Hawthorn, Phil Hill, John Surtees, Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter, Michael Schumacher and Kimi Räikkönen.
Dieter Knectel noted that with this default engineering excellence, the other is to keep things exclsuvie as possible for Ferrari’s clientele., “We always sell one car less than the market demands, adhering to our strong roots of providing exclusivity. This element of exclusivity also tells our customer that what he or she purchases, will have a solid sense of value and price that can maintain nicely with time. This makes each Ferrari, a good purchase.” However, as a pace-setter, innovator and leader, there are challenges that can throw a few spanner in the works for the Italian marque but Dieter knows that it is the challenge that makes the champion.
“The challenge of maintaining this position is that our engineering departments are always under pressure to research and innovate constantly. But, this is also a good thing because our engineers also love it. We are also supported by a very strong customer portfolio that also supports our work. This is supplemented by events with partners and ambassadors to further elevate the Ferrari brand experience.”
At the tail-end point of the chat, it was only inevitable that I reeled-in the man’s view on whether Ferrari defines luxury, or does luxury define Ferrari? The witty CEO gave the perfect answer of our interview session, “Ferrari is the only brand that has been turning heads since its first car even. It was then that we were already trendsetters. This placed us automatically as the centre of luxury. Today, we’re a coveted brand by those who chase and achieve success.” We can’t disagree with Dieter one bit because God knows, they are a special breed of sportscars that deserve all the praise they can get for staying at the top for the last 70 years as a proper powerhouse.