Ireland's only Ferrari dealer gives green light to recovery with launch of supercar showroom
Ireland's only Ferrari dealer isn't nearly as downbeat as expected. Charles Hurst has just splashed out €1.2m on a shiny new showroom in Belfast, which handles sales on both sides of the border.
Spending that kind of money to shift some supercars is a real sign of confidence in the economy on both sides of the border.
They even gave me a €250,000-valued Ferrari 458 to burn up the Ards Peninsula to show how confident they were about the future. When you press the start button of a Ferrari 458 it roars like a lion. A chain-smoking lion that just swallowed Barry White.
This beast of a car is more valuable than a government minister. And much more red. Driving from the Titanic Quarter to the pointy end of the Ards Peninsula gives you a bit of insight into why the iconic Italian motor company has cornered the market in super cars.
Irish Ferrari sales were hit hard in 2008 but Charles Hurst expects that 2013, will be a record year according to franchise director Richard Stinson, sitting in the marble tile, white leather and shiny car emporium. Michael Schumacher's F1 racing car is parked out front. The Charles Hurst numbers include strong sales in the North as well as some overseas business. Ferrari drivers are remarkably loyal to their dealers. Even if they live abroad. Charles Hurst recently delivered a Ferrari out to a client in Monaco.
The Republic of Ireland is a bit "weak" according to Matteo Torre, Regional Manager for Ferrari North Europe, who has jetted in for the day. Typical Italian in his slick suit and loafers, Torre sees the recovery coming faster in Northern Ireland than in the South. Sales were flat last year, flat this year, will probably be flat next year too. But things are set to improve in 2015.
Ferrari also does a thriving business in second-hand super cars. Most people's first Ferrari is a second-hand one. The average age of a buyer is about 47. Charles Hurst operates a special "approved" second-hand Ferrari sales programme with guarantees and warranties as long as your arm. Second-hand cars are bigger down south than up north.
Given that my Ferrari 458 – which I caked in mud after a misguided detour up a boreen near Greyabbey – costs the bones of €250,000, buying a new motor is a real indicator that things are improving. . . at least for billionaires and multi-millionaires.
The market is also set to be boosted by changes in the car tax regime, which now means owners can reclaim a big chunk of tax back if they offload their car abroad. The VRT on the car I drove is close to €100,000.
As economic barometers go, the increasing length of a Ferrari waiting list would seem to indicate solid demand. Ferrari has changed the way that it operates waiting lists, according to Torre. It was a little "naive" before. Now potential owners have to stick down a big fat deposit and go through a number of pre-clearance hoops before they make the list. It's something Ferrari takes very seriously. The brand is protected above all else. Only around 7,000 Ferraris are produced each year.
Around 25 Ferraris are sold in Ireland each year, according to Torre. There are about 400 Ferrari owners in the country. The names are well shielded by the car firm – but the likes of ESB chairman Lochlan Quinn, Rosanna Davison's squeeze Wesley Quirke and members of JP McManus's family are all said to drive serious bits of car. After spending two hours as an ultimate babe magnet in my Ferrari 458, it's not hard to see why.