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California, here we come

Well-oiled: It takes 100 Ferrari workers to build the F430, but just 70 to make the California roadster.

Ferrari anticipates a new breed of customer for its first steel-topped roadster

1 Jul 2008


PORSCHE and Mercedes-Benz owners are heading into Ferrari dealerships in Australia with a view to buying the forthcoming Ferrari California roadster, according to the local agent.

Ferrari Australia general manager Kevin Wall said that his dealers are reporting “an amazing amount of interest” in the California and that 50 per cent of potential buyers have never owned a Ferrari previously.

“This is not a car for traditional hardcore Ferrari buyers who want to take their car to the track,” said Mr Wall. “Existing F430 owners are saying: ‘this is not for me, I’ll stick with my 430’.” Mr Wall said that the California would likely refocus Ferrari on the female market and that the car would therefore be more driveable and flexible – but it will still be capable of 300km/h.

Negotiations with the factory over the allocation for Australia will take place in the lead-up to its public debut at the Paris motor show in early October, by which time there is expected to be a sizeable waiting list.

Waiting lists are between one and two years on other Ferrari models.

Full-scale California production will commence in July and the first example in Australia is expected to arrive in April or May next year, with an expected price of more than $430,000.

Production will take place on a more automated and modern assembly line that has just been completed in a building adjoining the existing labour-intensive V8 and V12 model lines (built in the early 1970s) at Ferrari’s legendary Maranello base near Bologna in northern Italy.

34 center image Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said that no other carmaker builds its cars entirely in a single village, although it should be noted that the bodies come from the Ferrari-owned Scaglietti factory in nearby Modena, which has also been renovated recently.

The new assembly line was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, whose work was recognised last month when he was presented with the Pritzker Architecture Prize in Washington.

It features a high level of natural light and provides much more space that the old plant, where each car takes up to five working days to reach completion.

Ferrari claims it will provide “the most advanced melding of artisan skills and avant-garde technologies” over its 21,000 square-metres of floor space.

Instead of each car moving from one work station to the next on heavy steel bases, Turin-based body welder and assembly contractor Comau has provided an innovative system of mobile pincers that makes it possible to raise, lower and rotate the car as it travels down the line.

This places the car at the best height for each worker to carry out the necessary assembly operations without having to reach up or bend down.

Only 70 workers will be required to reach maximum capacity for the California whereas it takes 100 to build an F430.

Although the 2+2 California will be the only car built in the new assembly plant initially, it will be joined by other V8-engined models as each new generation is introduced.

V12-enginesd models will similarly be transferred to the new plant in due course, but these will go down a separate line above the V8 line.

Seeing a prototype California for the first time in the metal, we can say that it looks even more elegant than in the photos, with sweeping lines, a clean interior and a useful boot (even with the roof retracted).

Like the 599 GTB Fiorano, there is a key for the ignition but to start the car you press a big red button on the left side of the steering wheel, while on the right is the dial to select the gearshift program.

And there is no conventional gear lever in the centre console – just three buttons to select automatic, reverse or launch control. You can either leave it in auto or use the steering column-mounted paddles to operate the new seven-speed dual-clutch automated transmission.

Read more:

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