Ferrari speeds into the future with the new F8 Tributo

It's all change at Ferrari as it prepares to welcome the first of 15 new models arriving before the end of 2022.

During what is the busiest product development cycle since the first Ferrari in 1947, the brand will usher in a range of hybrid models and a more practical car inspired by the SUV boom.

Rather than rusted-on fans of the marque, the Italian brand has its youngest-ever buyer base in Australia (the average age is 48) and more than half those putting down on a deposit on the soon-to-arrive F8 Tributo have never owned a Ferrari.

Ferrari Australasia CEO Herbert Appleroth describes the evolution as "great", with "Ferraristi … now having to battle against people who are coming into the brand for the first time".

Numbers game

The F8 Tributo is the ninth generation is a long list of mid-engined Ferrari V8 sports cars that started in 1975 with the 308 that was made famous in the Magnum PI TV series.

Some 53 per cent of Australians who have joined the queue have never owned a Ferrari, continuing a trend for a brand with immense loyalty.

Priced from $484,888 plus on-road costs, the F8 is the only one of its type not to use three numbers in its name, the most recent of which is the 488.

Instead, Ferrari is paying homage to the classic layout in what is its last iteration.

Ferrari calls the F8 Tributo "the last of its bloodline", referring to the imminent switch to hybrid propulsion.

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The move to hybrids is being driven by stricter emissions regulations, especially in Europe. Car makers around the world have explored myriad options, with most determining the addition of one or more electric motors is the best way to reduce fuel use and allow short distances of all-electric driving.

Hybrid history

Ferrari is already familiar with fast cars boosted by electric motors, something that debuted on the La Ferrari hypercar of 2013 and will soon be followed up with the SF90 Stradale that arrives here in 2020.

The SF90 makes 736kW, or a neat 1000 horsepower, employing three electric motors and a derivative of the F8 Tributo's V8 engine.

It is the most powerful Ferrari road car ever created, followed by the La Ferrari.

Of course, Ferrari was working with hybrid technology before that with its Formula 1 cars, which have used KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) since 2009.

Tech move

Appleroth says the Ferrari faithful are ready for the hybrid onslaught, which will see a full range of hybrids (including V12 models) by 2021. The brand is estimating 60 percent of its sales to be for hybrids by 2022.

"Our customers look to us to bring technology which is proven and most importantly isn't for technology's sake, it's actually to boost enjoyment," he says.

Enjoyment is key, as is going faster, with expectations that future Ferraris will be quicker than the models they replace.

"Whatever we do next must be better performance," says Dieter Knechtel, CEO Ferrari Far and Middle East.

Pay up

But the hybrid move is also likely to result in many people paying more for their Ferrari.

Pricing for the SF90 hasn't been announced but is expected to be well into seven figures.

And in briefing capital markets about its financial performance, Ferrari last year forecast a "significant increase in average retail price" moving forward.

Top-end strength

Not that Ferrari is expecting sales to soften. While sales of mainstream and luxury cars have dropped about 10 percent over the past year, the top end of the market has been largely shielded from the carnage.

In 2018 Ferrari Australia set a sales record of 241 cars and for the first seven months of 2019 the brand is 8.9 percent ahead in a market that's dropped 7.7 percent.

"The market is not in the best shape," acknowledged Knechtel, adding "I expect the impact on Ferrari to be very minor."

Appleroth says often long waiting lists – for some models they're measured in years – helps ride out any economic ripples.

"We're beautifully positioned because of that wonderful order portfolio that we've built … there's always been more demand than supply."

Track focus

Speaking of tough times, it's been lean on the world's F1 race tracks for Ferrari.

With 15 world driver's championships to its name, there hasn't been one since 2007, marking the second longest drought in almost 80 years of Formula 1.

In the hybrid era of F1 Ferrari has won plenty of races but not the world championship, comprehensively outclassed initially by Red Bull and more recently by Mercedes-Benz.

This year was hoped to see Ferrari take the fight to Mercedes but the mistakes and slip-ups have mostly seen the famous brand relegated to lower podium positions. A win was finally logged at Spa in early September.

None of which appears to be impacting the insatiable demand for some of the most desirable sports cars on the planet.

First-hand

Going fast in a Ferrari will soon be easier in Australia, too.

From next year Ferrari will introduce a one-make series that allows owners to compete in equal machinery on a race track.

"We have seen increasing interest and demand … from some customers," says Knechtel. "It's very fitting to introduce the Cup Challenge."

High rider

But much of the interest in Ferrari surrounds the upcoming Purosangue, the brand's foray into the SUV segment.

But Knechtel quickly corrects any reference to SUVs, at least in their traditional sense.

"I think you should not speculate too much on getting a fully-fledged SUV," he says of a car Ferrari has previously referred to as an FUV, or Ferrari utility vehicle.

The only clue is it will have "DNA Ferrari".

Knechtel says in expanding its reach Ferrari will spread out from its traditional segments.

"Focusing on the versatility and usability of the car is something we have in mind when it comes to developing the market in future."