CALGARY — Alberta’s economic downturn has not dampened sales of ultraluxury vehicles in Calgary, where garages of the wealthy continue to house brands such as Ferrari, experts say.
“Calgary is an important market, and it’s growing faster than the rest of the region in terms of percentage,” said Ferrari North America CEO Matteo Torre. He was in Calgary for the recent official grand opening of Ferrari of Alberta, a $15-million structure that shares space with Roll-Royce, Maserati and Alfa Romeo.
The dealership is “an important milestone in the long history of success Ferrari has had in this part of the world,” Torre said.
It’s so important that Ferrari chose the Calgary as the first to showcase the new midengine F8 Tributo sports car, featuring a 3.9-litre V-8 touted as the most powerful V-8 the company has ever made.
UPBEAT IN DOWN TIME
Alberta’s economy is stuck in low gear, according to the latest quarterly Alberta Economic Outlook quarterly report, issued by ATB Financial on Sept. 10. The report said “job creation has been tepid in 2019.”
The collapse in oil prices has left Calgary with a downtown office vacancy rate of 24.4 per cent and an unemployment rate of 6.6 per cent, according to Calgary Economic Development. A report by Avison Young indicates the vacancy rate is trending downward.
In 2014, while the economy was booming, the city enjoyed a 4.5-per-cent jobless rate and a 9.8-per-cent vacancy rate.
But Torre said he thought a return to prosperity was near for Calgary and the rest of the province.
Dealer Principal Carlo Galasso said he has seen business increase “about 30 per cent” since the dealership quietly opened about year ago, before the official grand opening this summer.
He attributed most of the increase to greater customer confidence in the new store, which has “a sense of elegance and permanency.”
Since then, he said, “We’ve had weeks where we’ve sold five cars.”
Maserati sales are flat, Galasso said. The grand total is down 28.7 per cent nationally for the first eight months of 2019.
As for Rolls-Royce, he said the Cullinan SUV has made a positive difference for the brand and, without disclosing numbers, said sales are up year over year. Nationally, Rolls-Royce had sold 80 vehicles at the end of August this year compared with 72 in 2018.
Alfa Romeo sales are down in Calgary and off a whopping 57.6-per-cent year to date nationally.
Meanwhile, Lamborghini Calgary General Manager Christopher Sage said the downturn has “done some damage” to volume. “We’ve sold two or three cars so far this year, but overall we’re pleased because we’re growing the service side,” said Sage, adding that business is stable.
“We should have done more, but we’re not seeing as many oil and gas people.”
Canada is the fifth-largest market in the world for Lamborghini — which has seen an increase for the first eight months of 2019, selling 152 vehicles compared with 144 last year.
‘FAIRLY STRONG YEAR’
Tony Dilawri of Calgary’s Distinctive Collection, which handles Bentley and Aston Martin, said sales year over year are up, but he declined to give a percentage.
“The trouble with percentages,” he said, “is that if you sold 20 cars last year and sold 22 this year, you’re up 10 per cent.
“We’re having a fairly strong year. Bentayga is doing very well.”
Sales of used vehicles, meanwhile, have increased 89 per cent over last year, Dilawri said.
NO DOWNTURN FOR FERRARI
While some analysts are predicting that sales of premium cars have peaked globally, Torre said the Ferrari brand is exempt because its business model “protects us in a downturn.”
At Ferrari, production is driven by demand, Torre said. He also indicated that four more new vehicles will be unveiled this year in addition to the F8.
“We generate the demand first and then follow with production,” Torre said. “That’s why our residual value stays strong and our waiting list very long. We work to generate the demand and satisfy that demand partially.
“That’s our philosophy. The rest of the industry is playing a different game.”
As manufacturers embrace greater electrification, Ferrari has begun moving to hybrid power with the just-unveiled SF90 plug-in, which uses three electric motors linked to a V-8 turbo. A turbo V-6 plug-in hybrid has also been confirmed.
Beyond that, Torre declined to elaborate on new products other than to say no plan exists for a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle and certainly not for an autonomous-driving Ferrari.
“The joy and pleasure of driving our car is a big selling point,” he said. “You get emotion out of it. You feel the performance. It is not just point A to point B.”
Though the automaker pays attention to “every technology, … we are not followers, we want to be leaders,” Torre said. “Whatever we do, the car is built around performance.
“We make the driving easier, but we want a driver behind a steering wheel.”