It’s not surprising on any given weekend to see a variety of exotic cars parked along the main drags in Calistoga, St. Helena, or Yountville in the Napa Valley.
What is surprising is to see 40 Ferrari sportscars in a resort parking lot.
The occasion was an event put on by the Italian sports car maker to give its loyal and select clientele a chance to view its new vehicles, and enjoy each others’ camaraderie.
To participate in one of these annual events, you have own a Ferrari and also be invited by the company.
Ferrari’s start at $200,000, as with the new 2017 California T a six-speed coupe with a manual drivetrain. The carmaker’s limited-edition 2017 La Ferrari Aperta sells for $2.2 million. Only 209 of those cars are being made.
They were sold by invitation only. Of the 209 invitations that were sent out, all 209 recipients purchased the car, according to Krista Florin, a company spokesperson.
Jordan Melville was one such person to receive an invitation.
“They emailed me the announcement that it was out and within two days I was down at the dealership putting my money down. With the California model, when I go home I’ll unpack and whip on down to the dealership and put some money down on that as well,” he said.
The West Coast of the U.S. is the top market for Ferraris, followed by the Northeast and south Florida, Florin said.
The company recently brought 70 of its classic cars, one for each year of company’s history, to the Concours D’Elegance in Pebble Beach. The cars, owned by the company, private owners and museums, were valued at $500 million.
From there, about 40 privately owned cars wound their way up the scenic coast, where owners wined and dined at various wineries, and finally landed at Solage in Calistoga.
“It is a bit of a marketing play for them for sure,” Melville said. “They bring very limited and very old and historical cars, but they also bring cars going into production now.”
Melville owns Brandlive Management Group, which puts on corporate conferences for companies like Honda. He also serves as president of T&M Management, a company with a diverse portfolio that includes Boston Pizza International.
Despite the attention grabbing appearance of its vehicles, the way the Ferrari company operates and markets the cars is low key.
If you hadn’t walked through the parking lot of Solage Resort and Spa the second to last week of August, you might not have known about the 70th anniversary event at all.
Ferrari doesn’t make an SUV, like other high-end cars like Lamborghini or Bentley, or sell an entry-level sports car, like Aston Martin or Maserati. Last year, the company said it shipped only 8,014 cars worldwide, but reported net revenue of $3.4 billion from sales of cars, car components and other sources. In other words, Ferrari can afford to be choosy about who gets its best cars.
“If you are not a current or previous Ferrari owner, you have no chance at all (to purchase a limited-edition car),” said collector David Christian, who for decades has raced and owned elite Italian cars. “I don’t care how much money you have,” the Los Angeles Times reported in June.
And as easily as followers can get invited to purchase cars, they can also be uninvited.
Los Angeles jewelry maker and Ferrari collector David Lee was punished for regularly posting his Ferrari outings on social media. Earlier this year he was denied by Ferrari the opportunity to purchase a new model based on his postings, according to multiple media reports.
“The factory doesn’t like the publicity he creates,” one source close to Ferrari told the Los Angeles Times. “They hate all the noise, and he loves all the noise.”
Mark Takahashi, a senior writer at edmunds.com, a care sales, review and research site, and former writer for an auto magazine, was allowed on a “very, very private tour” of the Ferrari factory.
“They probably had a personality conflict (with Lee) and didn’t like the way he portrayed the company. They are notoriously judgmental,” he said, noting the comedian and car collector Jay Leno walked into a dealership to buy one and “wasn’t given the time of day.”
Takahashi also recalled a group of about a dozen American Ferrari owners who traveled to Italy being turned away at the gate of the factory. Ferrari told them, “We simply can’t accommodate you today.”
“The odd thing was the owners didn’t seem to mind. That they can turn people away, how exclusive and capricious the company is, all of that adds to the mystique,” Takahashi said.
Melville owns six vehicles altogether, but says with Ferrari “It really is a love for the brand and energy that the brand exudes and the people that represent the brand that are involved with corporate or people like us. We all have the same love for these vehicles. That’s really what connects us.”
Ferrari’s culture of exclusivity is a match for the image Napa Valley has created for itself, by marketing to the affluent traveler. According to Visit Napa Valley, the county’s tourism booster, the average visitor makes more than $100,000 per year.
“I’ve been here (to Solage) before with my company and everything is so top notch. I mean, they know who their customer is,” Melville said.
Apart from their looks, Ferrari’s are also known for their speed, which can reach in excess of 200 mph, not that many owners drive that fast. The Laferrari Aperta is capable of pushing the car to 62 mph from a standstill in under 3 seconds and to 124 mph in 7.1 seconds, according to drive.com
The F12berlinetta is a 7-speed, dual-clutch car that can go from zero to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds. It starts at $310,000, and gets about 15 miles per gallon.
Although the majority of owners tend to be male, there are two female race car drivers in the Ferrari Race Challenge, Florin said.
And there are also events at various race tracks where owners can indulge if they so feel the need.
“It’s really just having fun with them, driving the speed limit and doing fun things with the cars. They (Ferrari) put on a lot of track events, so you can drive it that way,” said John Evilsizor, who attended the Napa Valley event from Danville.
Evilsizor, who said he owns and manages apartments, said he bought his first Ferrari in 1978, and has purchased well over 30 since then.
Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at Cynthia.Sweeney@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4259.