Or, rather, Ferrari has this really, really antiquated and very dumb, stick-up-the-ass view of itself that hasn’t matured or grown up to figure out how a flighty thing like image is cultivated in 2017.
If you don’t already know, for a lot of Ferraris—specifically the ultra-exclusive ones—you can’t simply have the money, show up at a dealership and buy the car. You have to be personally approved by Ferrari. How they deem one person to be more acceptable to buy one of their expensive cars over another is anyone’s guess.
The most recent offense involved a LaFerrari Aperta and a wealthy Southern California watch and jewelry entrepreneur and Ferrari superfan, David Lee. Ferrari rejected him from buying one. (Funnily enough, he actually isn’t the first person Ferrari rejected from buying an Aperta.)
The full and crazy story is can be found over at The Los Angeles Times, but here’s the breakdown:
Even before the LaFerrari Aperta was a thing, Lee was buying Ferraris. He grew the family jewelry business into the Hing Wa Lee Jewelers empire (which, combined with the family real estate businesses is allegedly worth $300 million). And he started buying Ferraris.
“I decided to be the guy who drives a Ferrari, seven days a week,” Lee told the Times. “To buy a limited-edition car, you have to buy a few other cars that you don’t want. I didn’t want to play the game. But there’s no other way to get into the queue.”
Currently, his Ferrari collection includes a LaFerrari, an F40 and an Enzo. On top of that:
He spent $25,000 to join Ferrari’s driving club. He spent $12,000 for two days in the Ferrari driving school, he said, and invested heavily in the company’s pro racing program.
He took his cars to Pebble Beach, to the annual Concorso Italiano and brought a sampling of his super car set to this month’s San Marino Motor Classic.
And there’s more. Lee’s Instagram account, ferraricollector_davidlee, has over 718,000 followers. In it, you can find photos of exotic cars, Jay Leno, watches and other Rich People events that Lee busies himself with.
He Instagrammed 10 photos of himself going to In-N-Out in his F12tdf.
Needless to say, the man is Addicted To Posting.
This, apparently, is what prevented him from getting an Aperta.
Ferrari wouldn’t disclose why Lee was rejected to the Times, but the paper does cite a source close to Ferrari as saying, “The factory doesn’t like the publicity he creates. They hate all the noise, and he loves all the noise.”
Collector, Petersen Automotive Museum board member and superbly fun-sounding person Bruce Meyer is totally on board with the Ferrari-controlling-its-own-narrative method. He said, “They’ve tried to keep their cars in the right hands, and they’ve done a good job of maintaining a brand of exclusivity,” he said.
So I guess, like, only race car drivers and professional Food People are deemed on-brand enough to buy the car?
But here’s the thing. Even if Ferrari won’t acknowledge it, a social media “influencer” (apologies for writing that word, it makes my skin crawl just as much as yours does) who posts a lot and portrays the brand in a really cool, trendy and hip way is exactly how you get attention. Good attention. It’s how you cultivate reverence and aspiration from followers and fans alike.
Don’t believe me? Check the comments. Most of them are noises of leg-humping admiration—exactly the kind of response Ferrari craves.
What’s more is that the Internet Collective Hivemind decided long ago that a collector who actually drove their cars was far more favorable than a collector who just garaged them. David Lee may post, like, way too much, but at least he goddamn drives his cars, which has earned him decent street cred from his almost one million followers.
Granted, this is the most First World Problem thing ever. Rich dude can’t get a Ferrari? How sad. But it illustrates a larger problem with this storied automaker, revealing that it can’t see how Internet car culture can create new opportunities here. And that’s just dumb.
So let him have the fucking car, Ferrari. It’ll make him happy, he’ll post many pictures of it and you’ll get I don’t know how many dollars’ worth of free advertising done for you. Fuck “brand exclusivity.”
Your prices already keep out most of the riff-raff.