Currently, Ferrari only builds 4400 cars a year, Stephenson explains, just a shade off its 4500 peak in the late 1980s. At the time, there was a general feeling that the market had become ‘insane’; speculators abounded and it was never going to sustain itself. Following recession, production hit rock bottom in 1993 at 2250 units per year.
Sales projections are ‘confidential, but positive’ for the luxury sector, we are told. There has always been a waiting list for Ferraris, which adds to the air of wonder around the brand. But output is closely monitored to match – or perhaps just undercut – customer demand.
‘I arrived at Ferrari in July 2002, after 11 years at BMW,’ says Stephenson. ‘I didn’t speak the language, but now I’m managing fine. It’s a lot more flexible here than at BMW. Things get done much more quickly because decisions are made on the spot. It felt a lot colder too, being in a German company.’
Stephenson is unquestionably at the cutting edge of the car design world, and while he does not oversee Ferrari’s legendary Formula One designs, he says he does take inspiration from them. ‘Of course, the F1 cars are not designed as objects of beauty, they are specifically designed to be functional,’ he points out.
Times are changing, and that includes the technology involved in Stephenson’s designs. ‘We don’t use clays. We are going straight from computer to the model now,’ he explains.
Those who want to know more about the details might be pleased to learn that Stephenson is looking to recruit a ‘young superstar’ to work under his wing. He doesn’t rule out the possibility of hiring more people, as the need arises. You’ll need to make a big impression that’s for sure – like slipping into the conversation that your favourite colour is Pantone 485, otherwise known as Ferrari red.
FERRARI GROUP July 2002 – present Director of concept design and development, Ferrari and Maserati Maranello and Modena, Italy
BMW GROUP 1996-2002 Chief designer Gaydon, England/ Munich, Germany
BMW AG 1991-1996 Senior designer, Munich, Germany
ART CENTER COLLEGE OF DESIGN 1994-1995 Instructor, Vevey, Switzerland
FORD WERKE AG 1986-1991 Designer, Cologne, Germany