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China House Rules

In just three decades Ferrari has developed a presence in over a dozen Chinese cities in a continent-sized nation. Satisfying a youthful clientele’s desire for advanced technology, yet always respectful of a millennial culture of deep traditions
Words: Daniele Bresciani - Photography: Pavel Shubskiy

The principal characteristic of the Ferrari Far and Middle East Hub in Dubai is its huge diversity, but that of the Ferrari Greater China Hub is, on the contrary, precisely its uniqueness, the cultural and linguistic homogeneity of a market that is more similar in statistics and size to a continent than a nation.

It is a factor that Giuseppe Cattaneo knows well. Since 2019 the Italian manager has been chief of the Hub which, as well as Mainland China, includes Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan: “The first word that comes to mind when I think of China, is ‘respect’. Respect for a tradition that is millennial but that also combines with very advanced technology. Respect for an enormous population with strong ties to its past, and for a society that has shown itself capable of creating commercial relations around the world, always with an eye on the future.”

Set against a backdrop of the famous Shanghai Bund riverfront district, from left: Elodie Zhu, Adriana Chen, Allen Ma, Giuseppe Cattaneo (President of Ferrari Greater China), Henry Wang, Olive Xu, Neo Song, and Ingrid Sun

For Ferrari the Chinese market is a relatively young one. In more than one sense. Mainland China’s first-ever car order dates back to 1992: a 348 TS, delivered in 1993. The first showroom was opened in Beijing in 1994 and today the network amounts to dealerships in some 17 cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shenyang, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Suzhou, Chongqing, Chengdu, Qingdao, Xiamen, Wuhan, Kunming, Changsha, and Hefei. So Ferrari China celebrated its thirtieth anniversary last year. And it did it in style. 

Various events were held throughout the year, with a gala evening staged in Shanghai where a splendid Ferrari Roma Tailor Made was presented, created along an anniversary theme in collaboration with the designer, Jiang Qiong’er. 

In front of the ‘Casa Ferrari’ building in Shanghai, from left: Shirley Lin, Jeremy Shi, Tim Yu, Dora Chen, Kiko Zhou, and Flora Chen

The car was sold immediately, raising one million Renminbi for the ‘Make-A-Wish Shanghai’ charitable initiative to create educational spaces in hospitals for seriously-ill children. Shanghai had also been the original setting for the opening of the first Tailor Made Centre outwith Italy, in 2014, then in 2021 Casa Ferrari opened in the innovative location of ‘Xintai 1920’, a former textile factory in one of the more interesting parts of the city, a building recognised for its historical significance, completely renovated and restored.

Alongside the Mainland China market there is also that of Hong Kong, which boasts a 40-year relationship with Ferrari, and that of Taiwan, where the marque has been present since 2006 and counts three dealerships, in Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung. Notably, two clients – in Hong Kong and in Taiwan – own one-off models: the P80/C and the SF51.

From left: Dora Cao, Deanna Ding, Lucas Lu, Angela Dong, Allen Yao, and Linda Nie

“Our clients are without doubt the youngest, compared to the rest of the world,” says Cattaneo. “The average age is thirty-five.” But it is not only age-wise that the Chinese Hub is young and dynamic. “It should be stressed that nearly 30 per cent of clients are female. China is a dynamic market that is expanding, one where in coming years it will be important to work on the fidelity of the customer base, so that they become ‘repeater’ clients.”

To manage a potentially enormous market, one that is both very keen on newness yet at the same time deeply tied to tradition, it is necessary to have the right kind of team. Cattaneo explains: “The team is made up of over fifty people, almost all of whom are Chinese. There are only three foreigners, including myself.

From left: Sam Shen, Ariel Zhang, Cathy Han, Cathy Wang, Victor Qu, Daisy Qian, Tim Jin, and Jessica Ma

“Apart from knowledge of the language, it is really important to have people with a sense of belonging to this culture. This is a country in continuous evolution, that never stands still: myself, having worked here in five different periods during my twenty years in Asia, I can say that I’ve witnessed five different ‘Chinas’.

“So, it takes people who, as well as knowing Ferrari well and what it represents around the world, are also able to understand a clientele that is young yet at the same time sophisticated. Always keeping in mind the social and emotional intelligence of the people you are dealing with.”