Ferrari dashboards are high-tech control centres that exude a unique sense of luxury. This is in part thanks to Poltrona Frau, whose highly-skilled artisans clad them in premium leathers
Passion, precision, craftsmanship… these are all ‘ingredients’ which – in hefty doses – make their way into every Prancing Horse. They are characteristics that Ferrari shares with its key suppliers too, as is the case with luxury leather lifestyle-products maker Poltrona Frau.
Despite its un-Italian sounding name, it has ‘Made in Italy’ credentials as solid as those of Ferrari itself and the two companies have worked together for many years. ‘It was a collaboration born through Fiat in 1986, when they asked us to make the interiors of the Lancia Thema 8.32, which was powered by a Ferrari engine,’ explains Kurt Wallner, Managing Director of Poltrona Frau’s Interiors in Motion Division.
This experiment transformed the company. The automotive segment has now become a pillar of Poltrona Frau’s trade, accounting for roughly half of the leather it purchases. With all of it of course sourced exclusively from Italian tanneries.
The first Ferrari to feature an interior made by Poltrona Frau was the F355 in 1996, and today the Prancing Horse is their leading automotive client. Such is the quality that even all of Maranello’s Tailor Made interiors are adorned with its leather.
Components from seats to door panels come from the company but perhaps the most important components of the relationship are the dashboards. It is a complex process requiring a mix of sophisticated machinery and maestranze, which in Italian refers to the highly-skilled manual workers who are true artisans.
The first step in the process is the selection of the colour of the leather to be used. For Ferrari, Poltrona Frau has more than 100 colour references available, with the most sought after hues being black, red and dark brown.
Each dashboard is made with only one animal hide. The quality of the leather is crucial, and not just in aesthetic terms: each hide is tested for resistance to various temperatures, rubbing, light, and fire. Then imperfections must be eliminated, a highly manual process carried out with excruciating precision.
The next step in the dashboard process is called ‘nesting’, a process – using state-of-the-art laser-supported technology – by which all individual pieces of a dashboard are mapped onto the hide to optimise the use of the precious material. Once ‘nested’, a computer-guided machine makes the cuts. Given each animal hide is unique, the mapping and cutting must be carried out anew for every dashboard.
Then comes the sophisticated wrapping phase: glue is sprayed by robots to the side of the leather that is to be attached to the dashboard structure. Then the leather is wrapped around the dashboard, a process called sellatura, best translated as ‘saddling’, when – just as a saddle is placed over a horse – the cut pieces are ‘saddled’ onto the dashboard to which they are being glued.
‘This is a process that no machine can do as it requires following the most sophisticated shapes and curves of a Ferrari dashboard,’ says Wallner. Here, highly-skilled hands are required to perform an almost ritualistic union of leather with dashboard. ‘To us this part is very poetic, it’s beautiful.’
Finally, the last step in the process is the ‘pressing’ of the glued leather onto the dashboard, a machine perfectly closing around the component, sealing the leather and dash together.
Other elements – like leather-covered air vents – are finished and inserted by hand and the completed dashboard is shipped to Ferrari and paired to ‘its’ car on the assembly line. The entire process – from beginning to end – for one dashboard takes up to 24 hours.
‘There is no other marque like Ferrari in terms of the choices they offer to their clients,’ explains Wallner. ‘It’s really incredible: customers can not only choose from a large range of beautiful leather colours, they can mix different colours and they can even choose the colour of the stitching yarn. The world of Maranello is very sophisticated. There is nothing like it.’