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Does Apple’s Eddy Cue joining Ferrari’s board mean product crossover?

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Apple’s Macs have sometimes been called the Ferrari of computers—or perhaps these days the Ferrari of tablets and smartphones. However, now there’s a direct Apple-Ferrari connection.

Ferrari’s board of directors met on November 7 under the chairmanship of Luca di Montezemolo to examine the company’s financial results for the first nine months of 2012, and to announce that Eddie Cue, Apple’s Senior Vice President Internet Software and Services, has joined their board. Eddie Cue oversees Apple’s content stores, including the iTunes Store, the App Store and the iBookstore, as well as Siri, Maps, iAd and Apple’s innovative iCloud services. Mr. Cue is a 23-year Apple veteran and played a major role in creating the Apple online store in 1998, the iTunes Music Store in 2003, and the App Store in 2008. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Economics from Duke University.

The company’s financial results show that as of September 30th, Ferrari recorded unprecedented revenues of 1,764 million euro (+10 percent) and cars delivered to the dealership network numbering 5,267 (+6 per cent). Trading profits increased by 9.6 percent to 232.8 million euro, while net profits grew 7.6 percent to 152.4 million.

The company’s industrial net cash position reached almost 1 billion euro—an all-time record figure of 959 million euro – despite continuing commitment to maintaining an extremely high level of investment in product development. Ferrari also chalked up a net cash flow of 251 million euro in the first nine months of the year, all excellent news for parent company FIAT S.p.A, which is, like most other European carmakers, struggling in the consumer marketplace these days.

The company reports that the product mix was excellent, with 12-cylinder model sales up 22% thanks to the success of the all-wheel-drive FF and the 8-cylinder models, particularly the Ferrari California 30 and the 458 Spider. The racing GT2 and GT3 versions of the 458 Italia took the titles in their respective categories last weekend in the GT Open Championship after having already won the FIA World Endurance Championship beating competition from the worlds leading manufacturers.

The USA reconfirmed its position as Ferrari’s largest market internationally with 26% of total global sales after delivery of 1,354 cars with a growth of 16%.

The UK market saw record sales of 504 cars, a leap of 37%, while Germany saw continued growth (+9%) with 534 cars delivered, consolidating its position as the largest European market.

In the Far East, the positive trend in Greater China continued (+7%) with 566 cars delivered, while Japan saw deliveries of 214 cars, an increase of 20 per cent. Results from the Middle East were in line with the excellent figures obtained in 2011, with 274 cars delivered.

Sales in Italy, as in the previous two quarters, were down with 238 cars delivered in the first nine months of 2012 (-49%).

“These results confirm Ferrari’s excellent performance in practically all of the 60 nations in which it is present despite the continuing challenging economic climate. Once again the exception is home-market Italy where we have witnessed a drop partly due to the economic crisis, but also to a hostile environment for luxury goods which have long been, and continue to be, an important resource for the country,” commented Luca di Montezemolo, who then announced the addition of a new Ferrari board member: “I am delighted that Eddy Cue, one of the main driving forces behind Apple’s range of revolutionary products, has now joined our board. His huge experience in the dynamic, innovative world of the Internet will be of great assistance to us.”

“I am pleased and proud to become a member of the board,” Cue said. “I have personally dreamed of owning a Ferrari since I was 8 years old and have been lucky to be an owner for the past 5 years. I continue to be awed by the world-class design and engineering that only Ferrari can do,” said Eddie Cue, commenting on his nomination to the board.

Mr. Cue’s appointment makes some speculation about possible Ferrari/Apple product crossover or tie-in inevitable. In 2003, PC-maker and Apple competitor Acer signed a sponsorship agreement with Scuderia Ferrari—the company’s motor racing team—and in 2006 Acer, formerly designated “Official Supplier” became Official Sponsor to Scuderia Ferrari, a relationship that resulted in the creation of several Ferrari-branded computer product series, including notebooks, netbooks and a smartphones featuring the traditional Ferrari Formula 1 racing livery of scarlet, silver, and black with the iconic prancing horse (“Cavallino Rampante”) Ferrari logo on a canary yellow field. It’s an appropriate symbol being that if there’s a true thoroughbred in F1 motor racing, Ferrari is it, having continually participated in the World championship series, usually a front-runner, since the company’s formation by the late “Commendatore” Enzo Ferrari in the 1940s. It’s a trajectory I’ve followed personally since 1961, when the late Phil Hill became the first (and thus far only) U.S.-born World Driving Champion for Ferrari (Mario Andretti is an American citizen, but was born in Italy).

However, Acer appears to have phased out all of its Ferrari-branded products save for a lone Ferrari wireless laser mouse still offered by the Acer Store. Or at least that’s all I could find on Acer’s product and store sites, although the Taiwan-based computer-maker is still listed as a sponsor on the Scuderia Ferrari website, and a lone Acer Ferrari One netbook is still available on the online Ferrari Store.

This begs the question of whether Eddy Cue’s Ferrari board appointment could lead to Ferrari-themed Apple hardware products, such as Ferrari/Apple MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones, or at least more integration of Apple device connectivity in Ferrari automobiles.

Ferrari reports that its brand-related activities (licensing retail and e-commerce) continue to grow. Revenues from the online store are up 32%, while those generated by licenses were up 20%, with Puma proving particularly robust. Ferrari also recently signed an agreement with Mondo TV for the production and distribution of “The Drakers,” an original animated series for young viewers that is inspired by the world of Ferrari.

Visits to Ferrari.com were also up by 20%, while its Facebook page has almost 10 million fans and views on the Ferrari YouTube channel have exceeded 20 million.

“Connected By The Same Passion”

Mr. di Montezemolo is known to be an Apple aficionado. Earlier this year the Ferrari chairman visited Silicon Valley where he met with Apple CEO Tim Cook and the heads of Google, as well as addressing more than 600 Stanford University students. “I’m not here to sell cars, but to communicate a dream,” Montezemolo said to applause from guests at Stanford’s View From the Top conference. He encouraged students to follow their dreams: “Be creative, follow your goals, use technology, dominate innovation, but don’t become dependent on machines, you have to be in the driver’s seat of your lives. Never lose the curiosity for what is around you.”

“Intelligence and innovative ideas can contribute to change and shape the future,” Montezemolo concluded in his address. “Passion and attention for the smallest details are what makes our cars, those who create them and those who drive them so special, living continuous excitement.”

Passion was also the theme at Mr. Montezemolo’s meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook: “I was impressed by his availability and openness,” Mr. Montezemolo commented upon leaving Apple headquarters after a two-hour face-to-face meeting. “We’re building cars, they build computers. But Apple and Ferrari are connected by the same passion, the same love for the product, maniacal attention to technology, but also to design.”

Reportedly, Mr. Cook wanted to see close up the new Ferrari FF Montezemolo had used to drive to Cupertino, admiring the styling and the interior of the 4-door 4×4 from the Prancing Horse, and was excited by the sound of the exotic’s 12-cylinder engine.

According to a report by Wire’s Damon Lavrinc, Mr. di Montezemolo cited a parallel between his experience at Ferrari and and Steve Jobs’ role in Apple’s renaissance. The former chairman of Ferrari’s parent firm FIAT S.p.A took the helm at the then-ailing supercar manufacturer in 1991, leading it to reestablish the marque as a winner in Formula One racing and as a leader in development of cutting-edge automotive performance and technology.

For the full report, visit Wired.

The full Ferrari.com board meeting report is available at Ferrari.com.

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