Vive la Difference

Nearly four years after the debut of the Roma, Ferrari unveiled the Roma Spider. We talk with Emanuele Carando, Head of Product Marketing, about this unexpected model.

Photo: Vive la Difference 1
August 31, 2023

The Roma Spider is a car few people saw coming, and I don’t quite understand the reason behind its existence. What was the motivation to produce such a car?
We try not to be predictable and to change the rules of the game every time. We are lucky to have customers who have everything in their lives, so, whenever they enter our world, they want to be surprised. Being unpredictable is a matter of surprising them.

Yes, but doesn’t the Roma Spider offer the same qualities—a convertible top, front-mounted V8, two seats plus the rear area—as the Portofino M?
It is very coherent with our product strategy, which can be contained in a single sentence: ‘Different Ferraris for different Ferraristi, different Ferraris for different moments.’ The Roma Spider comes as the most versatile car in our range. It’s a coupe and it’s a Spider, it’s a 2+, it’s a car you can use every day, but if you want to enjoy sportiness this car has plenty to offer, as well.

The Portofino M is very different from the Roma Spider. It differs from the design standpoint. This one is more elegant, whereas the other is more sporting; this one recalls the 1960s, the other is done in the contemporary style. In addition, the Portofino M is truly a “two in one” car, because not only can it act like a coupe, it also looks like one with the metal roof in place.

This Roma, even if it’s just as versatile in reality, has the nature of a Spider, with the soft top creating a different effect. With these two cars, we are talking to different people.

Photo: Vive la Difference 2

So who are you talking to with the Roma Spider?
The Spider lovers—people who love to drive looking at the sky, who love being in the open air. Driving a Spider with your side windows down is like driving a motorcycle. It’s a really versatile car which can be enjoyed by virtually all types of clients, although we believe they will be mostly young couples, young families, and single people.

Whenever we develop a car, we always keep in mind the needs of our clients. For example, like many of them, I’m a golf player. When we were developing the car, I wanted to be sure that its trunk would be able to fit two golf bags. Depending on the size of the bags, you can put them across the trunk or longitudinally, all the way to the cabin. In the winter, with the roof up, you have even more room: a full 255 liters, roughly the same as the Roma coupe.

And this car succeeds the Portofino M, whose production will end at roughly the same time production of the Roma Spider starts?
It depends on what you understand as ‘succeeding.’ From a conceptual standpoint, no, these are two different cars speaking different languages. From a production standpoint, there’s going to be some overlap, but it won’t be huge. It’ll take maybe up to a year.

What about the Roma coupe? What will be the division in production between the two body styles?
That’s something we cannot communicate, but let me put it this way. When production of the Roma Spider gains momentum, it’ll be 100 percent this one and zero percent for the coupe. That’s just because we’ve sold out the whole production of Roma coupes already. We will still be delivering the Roma coupe for a couple of years, but the orders have been already taken. We’re well beyond our “one car less than the demand” rule.

Photo: Vive la Difference 3

The main difference between the Roma coupe and Spider is obviously the convertible roof. For the first time since the F430, and unlike in the Portofino M, it’s a soft top. What was the motivation for this big change?
This was a difficult decision to make because the technology which we developed over the years for the folding metal top is incredible, it really gives our cars a “two in one” approach. The thing is, we wanted to have something completely different. We haven’t had a car like this one, meaning a soft-top convertible with an engine in the front, for 55 years. The previous one was the Daytona Spyder, presented in 1968, the year I was born. One could say it’s a big step backwards, but it’s a big step forward, really, as people are not used to this kind of a car any more, not as much as before.

From the design standpoint, we wanted to maintain two key elements of the Roma’s looks: the shark nose and the fastback. The former is not impacted by the top, less so the latter. If we were to make a hard top, the back of the car would’ve been placed much higher. We already have a car with a similar solution, which is the Portofino M.

We wanted to achieve something which was more in line with the original spirit of the Roma. We maintained its movable rear wing, with its three positions adjusted automatically based on the car’s speed. We made a few changes to the shape of the wing, but it’s something that you’ll see only in the mathematical equations, not with your eye in the real world. The trunk lid itself is exactly the same as in the Roma coupe.

The soft top presents some further advantages. You can open it while driving up to 60 km/h [37 mph] and stow it in 13.5 seconds, so it’s faster than our metal top. The key element of the roof is the fabric. We developed it with our technological partner specifically for this car. It consists of five different layers, and the end result is not like a usual soft top.

Photo: Vive la Difference 4

One of the reasons we haven’t been making this kind of car since the 1960s is that the technology just wasn’t good enough. The soft tops in the front-engine convertibles weren’t up to our expectations when it came to comfort inside the car. This new design is the first one which meets our definition of quality.

Another reason we decided on the soft top is for personalization opportunities. The soft top brings us an opportunity to offer five different colors of the roof, but you can personalize this even further because the textile is finished with a stitching which is available in seven different colors. The four standard colors of the fabric roof are black, blue, brown, and silver, with the Technical Red as an option. An important feature of this fabric is the denim look it has, which, whenever you’re exposing it to the sun, you get to see a three-dimensional effect. When the roof is stowed, it’s covered with a tonneau in the same color.

What has changed in the Spider’s cabin?
It’s still the same dual-cockpit arrangement of the Roma. We kept the design untouched as it was very well received by the customers. We carry on this double-soul approach here. Outside the car is very elegant, but when you’re inside you feel like you’re in a sports car. This applies also for the person sitting next to the driver; he’s not a passenger anymore, he becomes a co-driver here, embracing his part of the cockpit.

The cockpit hides one total novelty, which is the wind deflector. It’s a completely new solution for the automotive business, a patented design we have developed ourselves. Within the back of the cabin there is this deflector which you can erect by pressing a button.

Photo: Vive la Difference 5

It improves comfort in the car in two ways. Whenever you’re driving a Spider, even at low speeds, you have the wind which comes in, gets into the back of the seats, and then hits you directly in the arms. Second, when you increase the speed you’re going, the noise levels are also increased. With this solution, none of these problems apply. You can really talk in a normal manner inside this car even when driving it with the top down at speeds up to 180 km/h [112 mph]. It’s a fantastic result we achieved with what you can see is an unabashedly simple solution.

One other new detail I see is a refreshed steering wheel, which looks like the one used in the Purosangue.
We changed the track pad on the steering wheel; it’s now cross-shaped. The touchpad on the left arm of the steering wheel has some indents so that the driver can identify the
buttons more easily without looking at the steering wheel. The HMI was designed with the help of our Formula 1
drivers so that the clients can experience a car closer to F1
also on this front.

Were there any modifications done to the architecture of
the car?

There are some reinforcements to the structure, but nothing major. The Spider weighs 80 kilograms [176 pounds] more than the coupe, 70 kg [154 lbs.] of which went for the roof construction, and 10 kg for the wind deflector. Whenever we develop a new architecture, we tend to anticipate the directions in which it’s going to be developed in the future. Even though the Spider came on the market nearly four years after the coupe, we had to keep it in mind from the first steps we took when creating Roma’s architecture.

Does that mean that, when you were working on the Roma coupe, you already had a plan to introduce the Spider at a future date?
We are a small company. We need to make sure our architectures are the most effective for the specific project, but can also be used just as effectively for future prospects. We’re still definitely not in a situation where we use one architecture for 75 different cars, but it should be able to host a few applications.

Photo: Vive la Difference 6

I have a theory that, since Ferrari went public, the strategic decisions are now motivated as much by the needs of clients as the stock market. Did Ferrari feel its lineup was too complicated, with so many models and names, for an average stock investor to understand the brand strategy,
so now you just have the Roma and Roma Spider as the base models?

When we got listed, the key fear from our clients was that after going public we’d produce so many cars that the key advantage of Ferrari—exclusivity—was going to be lost. This would mean that the value of their cars, which had been building for the last 20 years, would also get lost. We assured them that was not going to happen.

Exclusivity continues to be the name of the game, but how to achieve it with the demand growing at a rapid pace? The number of high-net individuals is growing dramatically around the world, and the desire of these people to invest in their daily pleasures is also increasing. Thus, we decided to develop this strategy, brought to life under the name of ‘Different Ferraris for different Ferraristi, different Ferraris for different moments.’ Through it, we were able to enlarge our portfolio just a little bit in terms of the model quantity—from 2018 to 2022, we launched 15 different models—but we maintained a great exclusivity for each of these models.

If you’re not a connoisseur and you don’t get into the business part of our activities, you won’t understand how our product architecture is built. What matters, though, is that each single model is tailored to specific customers and their personal needs. Does this make Ferrari’s lineup complex? Well, it has to be explained.

When it comes to names, some companies have naming strategies much different from ours; they choose one name and use it for the next 50 or 60 years. At Ferrari, we have a completely different strategy. Every car each time has a different name. I know—wouldn’t it be easier to have California II, California III, and so on? We decided to have different names because every single Ferrari product is a piece of art. Every single piece of art is unique, also from a naming standpoint.

One small detail few people notice is that we tend even not to have our complete model lineup presented together in one photo. We believe that even an idea of a Ferrari lineup is something that can be questioned. We don’t want to say we have a lineup like volume car makers. We have certain cars which we put into some kind of a matrix, but it’s not the usual understanding of a model lineup.

Whenever a client enters a Ferrari dealership, we don’t say to them, ‘Hello, these are all of our cars, please decide which one you want.’ Instead, we try to understand the customer’s needs and, based on that, we recommend a right model for this person. It’s like going to a tailor. When you go there, a good tailor looks at you, tells you your size, and already knows the fabric for the suit and all of the other details. The client doesn’t learn the whole offering of the place to make the best choice.

With an eye on increasing the exclusivity of each model, might we see new engines in existing models, such as putting a V12 in a V8 model like the Roma?
It wouldn’t be perfect. You design and develop an architecture in order to be the best possible for that specific engine. Is that the most efficient way of making cars from an economical point of view? Definitely not, but it’s the only way to develop the best performing car of its type. This is the advantage of being a small, independent company. We’re not a part of any big group, we can make our own decisions and provide the best possible products to our clients without any compromises.

So there are no plans for a V12-powered Roma?
We have the 812 Superfast and 812 GTS, we’ve just launched the 812 Competiziones, and we have the Purosangue, so I believe our portfolio of V12-powered models is pretty big. It’s still a very important part of our DNA, so, provided we have legal space [Europe currently plans to ban the sale of new internal-combustion vehicles by 2035], we’re going to continue offering it as long as there’s the demand for it.

How important is the Roma Spider for the U.S. market?
The U.S. market will enjoy and appreciate this car the most for two reasons: it’s a market of Spiders and has high demand for sports cars. The clients there also have a soft spot for the style of the 1960s more than in other countries.

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  • One-off KC23
  • 250 GTE
  • Replica 330 P4
  • Alessio Rovera interview
  • F1: Changing Conditions
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