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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Tornare

This is why Ferrari should offer a manual gearbox.

Ferrari is known for its supercars and mind-blowing performance. Over the last decades, the Italian manufacturer has been at the forefront of technological improvements. As a result, manual gearboxes have been pushed out of the portfolio, since automatic transmissions allow for faster gear changes and therefore better performance. However, with this philosophy, the brand with the prancing horse seems to miss a monumental opportunity.

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Manual transmissions are disappearing from cars and sports cars. Ferrari is no exception to this rule. For the sake of better performance, manual gearboxes disappeared from the option list in the late 2000s. Yet, enthusiasts tend to consider manual shifting more involving and fun. Recent transactions have proven that exotic cars with manual transmissions are sought after. In a world where performance has become inflated, it seems like a more analogue driving experience may be the new niche that manufacturers should look into. As a result, it appears that Ferrari is making a tremendous financial mistake by not bringing back the manual gearbox. Here's why.


Performance versus experience

The chase after horsepower and 0-60 times is gone. Currently, every new car seems to be faster than ever thought. However, automotive products have become more numb. The driving experience has overall become less exciting despite increasing performance. Therefore, more involving, yet less powerful vehicles have become more desirable and have seen their prices skyrocket. This is especially true for vehicles with manual gearboxes.


Manual gearboxes are more engaging. While automatic gearboxes ensure better performance and a smoother ride, they reduce the connection between man and machine. Shifting gears necessitates concentration and abilities. The driver must develop a mechanical feel for each new car and must be more alert to what happens within the engine and other mechanical components. While this is a challenge, many enthusiasts drivers seek this adrenaline rush and rawer experience.



Market prices

The last manual Ferraris have drastically increased in value. Typically, a manual F430 is worth around twice the price of an automatic one. Similarly, the manual Ferrari 550 Maranello is now more valuable than the more powerful and newer 575M, which was (almost) only available with the F1 gearbox.


Porsche has seized the opportunity. In 2017, Porsche offered the 911r, which was supposed to be the last manual 911, for around CHF 250'000.-. The cars traded on the second-hand market for amounts close to a million in the weeks following the production. They are now still worth close to CHF 500'000.-. The German brand has since then drawn the lesson from this experience and extended the lifespan of its manual gearbox. It has also taken advantage of the customers' willingness to pay. The new 911 Sport Classic, which is basically a manual 911 turbo, is offered by dealerships at a price north of CHF 400'000.-. As a result, Porsche has understood that buyers are willing to pay high prices for a more analogue driving experience.



Ferrari's strong brand

Ferrari belongs to the strongest brands in the world. Its products are extremely desirable. Based on the prices paid on the second-hand market for limited editions by the Italian manufacturer, there is almost no doubt that customers would have a high willingness to pay for a manual Ferrari. Additionally, Ferrari is known for its ability to capitalize on scarcity. The strong brand combined with the desirability of scarce products and high willingness to pay appears as a good recipe for success.



Aftermarket parts

The aftermarket is trying to fill the gap. In recent years, a couple of companies have specialized in the conversion of automatic gearbox Ferraris to manual. These businesses have enjoyed growth and received investments, despite a somewhat limited market. Also, demand is high although prices for the modification are in the tens of thousands.



Conclusion

It seems like the fact that there is still no modern Ferrari with a stick shift available from the factory appears as one of the biggest unseized opportunities in the car industry. For a while, Ferrari could justify this decision through its willingness to offer performance-driven products. However, history has proven that there is a market for modern manual sportscars and supercars. What's more, these customers have a high willingness to pay. Yet, Ferrari is not capitalizing on it. In the meantime, other businesses are taking advantage of this situation.


 

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