We talk to Dieter Knechtel, President of Ferrari Far East & Middle East, at the Singapore launch of the 2022 Ferrari 296 GTB : Hyb'-Beast
The Wine Vault, Singapore
The launch of a new Ferrari is always a momentous occasion. This superfast superbrand doesn't faff about with spurious limited editions and any new Ferrari model like the 296 GTB being launched today, (or even an update to one, like the Portofino M, for instance), can be always counted on to be more than just a skin-deep nip-tuck.
Don't be fooled by the V6 engine in the 296 GTB and start referencing yesteryear's Dino models.
At S$1.13m before COE and options (the track-ready Assetto Fiorano adds S$120k to this), the 296 GTB trumps the F8 Tributo in price (it is 13 per cent higher), so there's nothing remotely 'entry-level' or 'stepping-stone' to Ferrari's latest plug-in hybrid-electric sportscar, which boasts a combined system output of 830hp.
Edit: As of 3rd March 2022, the base price of the 296 GTB has jumped to S$1.24m before COE and options (no) thanks to changes in Singapore's taxation of luxury cars.
We have a superfast session before the launch with Mr. Dieter Knechtel, President of Ferrari Far East & Middle East, to talk about the 296 GTB, how it drives, the rumblings from the purists targeted at the V6 and how well the past year has been for the Prancing Horse.
"The 296 GTB represents next generation technology for Ferrari," he says. "We've invested a lot in hybrid technology – first with the SF90 Stradale and SF90 Spider and their high-end power and now with this complementary product, the 296 GTB that is engineered to be fun-to-drive."
"I think it hits the core segment of Ferrari lovers. I myself was surprised when I drove it. The 296 GTB is agile and sporty, thanks to its short wheelbase and it behaves like a race-car. On the other hand, it also 'apologises' for your mistakes, meaning the electronics will bail you out if you make an error during fast driving. This means that everyone from seasoned pro drivers to less professional drivers can have fun with the car," Dieter explains.
"Once you are driving the 296 GTB you will appreciate that it has all the qualities that can be identified as a true Ferrari. It's a lot of fun, I can guarantee you that!" Dieter grins.
What about the die-hard fans of Ferrari's traditional V8 engines, will they feel alienated? Dieter says, "Well, there's a lot of love for the traditional V8s, but we also need to move on and develop cars that are fitting with the expectations (and emissions / sound restrictions) of today."
"Besides, the younger generation of clients that Ferrari wants to target expects such levels of new technology. So, yes it’s a V6 (the first we've mounted in a road-going car in modern times outside of F1), but it's also a very powerful one that is class-leading in its segment."
In fact, Dieter is particularly impressed with the rejuvenation of the Ferrari clientele in Singapore.
"We were very successful in welcoming newer and younger clients to the brand. The rejuvenation of the client base has been very impressive over the six or seven years since I've been here. When I attend Ferrari Owners' Club Singapore events, I almost don't recognise anyone any more because of all the new people coming into the brand. The Roma helped us a lot in 'acquiring' clients new to the Ferrari brand. This is why new technology is so important – it attracts new and younger people who are then prepared to take a major step towards the brand's cars."
Super-sportscar brands like Ferrari operate constantly at the outer limits of performance. They are expected to constantly push the limits of technology in terms of chassis, aerodynamics and powertrain to create the stuff of a petrolhead's dreams.
Dieter continues, "Customers haven't viewed the car in the flesh yet (at time of writing), but based on photos, performance, specifications and brochures that we’ve shared, there’s a huge demand from Singapore. Already without having touched the car we already have had good success – more than ever before at such an early stage for a new car."
"The last two years were extremely successful and were the best years in Ferrari's history globally (and also in Singapore), especially in terms of order takings for future delivery. We can only guess that customers are happy to buy a Ferrari in these times because they realise that life is short and they want to fulfil a dream for themselves and we have benefitted from this," Dieter smiles.
Some sportscar brands have allocation issues, so we ask if Ferrari will face the same problems. Dieter quickly corrects us, "Ferrari doesn't face an allocation issue, because cars are built to order – we don't produce cars to hold in stock. Naturally, there’s a reasonable waiting time from order to production and then delivery."
To clarify, we ask if the spike in global demand for sportscars has had an adverse impact on production waiting times. "Every car ordered will be produced. When we have a larger order bank globally (as is the case now), we manage that and adjust production to match demand. We're constantly challenged to keep waiting times at an acceptable level and not longer than before."
When do the first 296 GTBs start to arrive in Singapore then? "The first car to arrive is the homologation model and also the dealer demo. It will arrive in about two months. A few customer cars will arrive before the end of 2022, but the majority will be delivered in 2023," Dieter tells us.
PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals for Ferrari