Ferrari makes fast and expensive cars, and for some it is a religion of sorts. Modern Ferrari is also, above all, a brand, with an interest not only in making fast and expensive cars but also apparel and leather. Modern Ferrari is also hugely profitable.
All this means that the person you want at the top is not someone in the mold of Enzo Ferrari, who despised his customers and was obsessed with racing. You want someone who is pretty much the opposite: a competent steward who can keep ushering in big profits. Ferrari appears to have found that in Benedetto Vigna, an Italian who The Wall Street Journal calls a “chip guy.”
Mr. Vigna is currently a divisional president at French-Italian semiconductor manufacturer STMicroelectronics STM 0.05% NV, where he has worked for more than 25 years.
In announcing the appointment, [John Elkann, the company’s chairman] cited Mr. Vigna’s “deep understanding of the technologies driving much of the change in our industry.”
This would appear to be both a short-term and long-term play, in that the industry is currently in the grip of a global chip shortage but that also the long-term future of cars is not internal combustion engines but computers on wheels, even Ferraris.
Reuters has a “factbox” about Vigna in which it says that he deserves some credit for inventing that thing where your phone screen re-orients when you turn it horizontal.
* Vigna and his team were among pioneers of the “three axis gyroscope” that debuted in the Apple (AAPL.O) iPhone 4, which allows the screen to adapt to portrait or landscape format as users turned the handset. This sensor technology is now used in all mobile phones as well as for ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) navigation and active safety in cars.
* A recognised industry leader and innovator, Vigna has more than 200 patents on micro-machining and has authored numerous publications.
Automaker CEOs tend to be industry veterans like Mary Barra and Jim Farley, or family scions like Akio Toyoda. There are also the sort-of-anonymous geniuses like Håkan Samuelsson, eternal engineers like Herbert Diess, power-hungry maniacs like Carlos Ghosn, and space cadets like Elon Musk. Vigna seems to be none of these. Ferrari stans will probably always measure Ferrari by the state of its Formula 1 team but Vigna will be concerned with the bottom line and maybe even the future. That is what modern Ferrari is.