Ferrari NV tapped Benedetto Vigna from chipmaker STMicroelectronics NV to be its next chief executive officer and take on the delicate task of transforming the Italian supercar maker in the age of electric driving and digital gadgetry.
The hiring of Vigna is one of the most significant appointments yet from the tech industry at a prominent carmaker and an indication of how quickly the industry’s shifts are playing out.
At STMicro, Vigna helped pioneer screen-sensor technology in the iPhone 4 that’s now used in smartphones and vehicle navigation systems globally.
Vigna, currently running STMicro’s analog sensor group, its most profitable unit, will join Ferrari in September. He’ll replace John Elkann, Ferrari’s chairman, who’s been filling in as CEO on an interim basis since Louis Camilleri abruptly resigned in December.
Vigna will take over a carmaker that’s been slow in committing to electric cars, a stance increasingly complicated by tightening regulations on emissions.
“The appointment is highly unexpected and, in our view, reflects the need to ‘reinvent’ Ferrari and the difficulty of securing candidates willing to take on the task,” Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois said in a note.
While Maranello, Italy-based Ferrari debuted a plug-in hybrid in 2019, Camilleri said around the same time a lot of customers had trouble imagining a battery-powered car as a real Ferrari.
Chairman John Elkann only recently outlined plans for a fully electric model for 2025.
Choosing an executive with a strong background in sensors and software signals the Italian luxury carmaker is set to shift faster toward the tech industry, after previously measuring itself up against luxury-goods makers such as Hermes or LVMH.
The appointment of an executive from a chipmaker also comes as automakers struggle with a severe shortage of semiconductors as economic activity resumes amid a fading pandemic.
Vigna’s “deep understanding of the technologies driving much of the change in our industry, and his proven innovation, business-building and leadership skills, will further strengthen Ferrari and its unique story of passion and performance, in the exciting era ahead,” Elkann said in a statement.
Weaning customers off ultra-luxury vehicles exuding the typical Ferrari sound will be a complicated feat, though Porsche’s experience with the all-electric Taycan shows it can be done.
After going on sale in 2019, deliveries have surged to almost level with the iconic 911. The model, recently flanked by a more spacious version, is attracting a significant number of buyers new to the brand.
The new CEO will share details about Ferrari’s future during a capital markets day in 2022, a year of important new product launches, Elkann said earlier this year.
The Purosangue — the brand’s first-ever SUV — is “turning out to be something truly special,” the Agnelli family scion and chairman of holding company Exor NV said.
In May, the automaker delayed longstanding earnings targets as it adjusts spending in response to the pandemic.
Ferrari had aimed for 2022 profit of at least 1.8 billion euros ($2.2 billion) before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization and now plans to achieve this and other goals a year later.
After a long period of operating largely detached from the market pressures affecting rivals, Ferrari has underperformed this year as Volkswagen AG and Daimler AG capitalized on growing enthusiasm for electric cars with enlarged lineups and accelerated sales expectations.