A proper final applause to Amedeo Felisa.
26 years. That’s a long time for anyone to work at a single company, but outgoing Ferrari CEO Amedeo Felisa did just that. He joined Ferrari way back in 1990, having started his career with Alfa Romeo in 1972. An engineer by training, Felisa may not have consistently been up front and center like former Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo and his replacement, Sergio Marchionne (who’s also taking on the role of CEO now), but Felisa played a huge role in making Ferrari what it is today.
He came to Maranello at a time when Ferrari was still dealing with the loss of its iconic founder, Enzo Ferrari (who passed away in 1987), and his hand-picked successor, di Montezemolo, was working extremely hard to make a name for himself. How could anyone replace Enzo Ferrari? Simple answer: you can't. But di Montezemolo created a legacy of his own making, and he had lots of help along the way. Felisa was his right-hand man in many ways. Looking at Ferrari’s late ’80 and early ‘90s model lineup, it was evident some changes were needed. Sure, the F40 and Testarossa were fantastic supercars, but they lacked the build quality of a certain supercar newcomer: the original Acura NSX.
Italian build quality (not to mention electronics) was never known to be the best, but Ferraris had to be the exceptions. Felisa was heavily involved in upping the quality and building up the brand itself. Today we have things like Ferrari World, Ferrari jackets, watches, and other related gear. What’s more, Ferrari is one of the most powerful brand names in the word. The very name is associated with prestige, quality, and speed. Looking at early ‘90s Ferraris, Felisa used his expertise for several improvements. For example, the 348, launched in 1989, was a pretty good mid-engined V8 supercar, but it clearly had more potential. Its 3.4-liter V8 produced 300 hp, which was decent but nothing earth-shattering, even for 1989.
Handling was described as "nervous." Felisa and crew improved the car with the 348 GTB and GTS. The F355, essentially an evolved 348, came in 1994 and it was world's better. Engine displacement was increased to 3.5-liters as was horsepower, now rated at 375. The F355 drove and handled beautifully, and it's hard to find a good one today for less than $100,000. Felisa’s other accomplishments include all of the F355’s mid-engine V8 successors, the 360 Modena, F430, 458 Italia and 488 GTB. He also helped evolved the Testarossa into the 512 TR and F512 M. For its 550 Maranello successor, the V12 was moved from mid-ship back to the front, and it remains there to this day with the F12berlinetta.
Bold decisions, like the FF, were made under Felisa’s guidance and, of course, there was the F50, Enzo and LaFerrari. But perhaps it was the LaFerrari that was the crown jewel of Felisa’s Ferrari career. After all, he was made CEO in 2008, just around the time LaFerrari development got underway. Amedeo Felisa had an extraordinary career and it’ll be fascinating to watch whether Sergio Marchionne can handle the combined tasks of Ferrari Chairman and CEO, as well as CEO of Fiat Chrysler.