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Ferrari’s new CEO is an electronics pioneer with a degree in subnuclear physics

Faced with an industry change of seismic proportions, Italian sports car maker Ferrari has turned to the electronics industry for its new chief executive, appointing Benedetto Vigna, 52, to the post, hiring him to leave his current position as sensor manager. STMicroelectronics semiconductor company group.

The “very unexpected” move surprised many, including industry insiders, who expected Ferrari to tap into the luxury or consumer goods sector, if not the automotive world. Vigna will join Ferrari on September 1 and replace interim CEO John Elkann, who will remain chairman.

“The appointment is very unexpected and, in our opinion, reflects the need to ‘reinvent’ Ferrari and the difficulty of finding candidates ready to take on the task,” Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois said in a note to investors on Wednesday.

A graduate in Subnuclear Physics from the University of Pisa, Vigna has worked at STMicroelectronics since 1995. Among his credits, Vigna contributed to the development of the gyroscopic system that allows smartphones to change display when turned sideways.

Elkann praised Vigna in a statement, saying: “His deep understanding of the technologies that are driving much of the change in our industry, and his proven skills in innovation, business building and leadership, will further strengthen Ferrari and its unique history of passion and performance. “

Ferrari’s management has been undergoing radical change since the departure of long-time CEO Luca Di Montezemolo in 2014. The late Sergio Marchionne, then CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, stepped in to guide the Ferrari split and the IPO of ‘October 2015.

After Marchionne’s death in July 2018, he was replaced at Ferrari by Louis Camilleri, who unexpectedly resigned last December, apparently due to complications from Covid-19. While Elkann intervened, he made it clear that it would be on a temporary basis. He is not only president of Ferrari, but also occupies the same role with the new Stellantis, the global automaker formed by the merger of Fiat Chrysler and the French group PSA.

Some industry experts see Vigna as a solid choice for a company that faces many of the same pressures as the rest of the auto industry, despite the unique niche in which its vehicles play – a base Ferrari, the Portofino. , currently costs around $ 215,000. And while the automaker is both known for its high-performance sports cars and involvement in Formula 1 racing, it also widely licenses its brand name for use on products as diverse as sunglasses and laptops.

Ferrari is about to present its first sport utility vehicle, the Purosangue – which means “thoroughbred” – and has just launched the new SF90 Stradale, its first plug-in hybrid. In April, Elkann confirmed that Ferrari would unveil its first battery-electric vehicle in 2025.

This could turn out to be the most difficult program Ferrari has faced in decades. Longtime competitor Lamborghini recently announced plans to offer only hybrids by the middle of the decade, with up to four EVs in the works for the second half of the decade.

Even conventionally-powered Ferrari products will continue to use more electronics for their infotainment systems, advanced safety equipment and transmission controls.

“We believe that (Vigna) will be able to further accelerate Ferrari’s ability to stay at the forefront of next-generation technologies relative to the automotive sector,” Pietro Solidoro, analyst at Bestinver, wrote to investors.

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