Ferrari (NYSE:RACE) has raced off on its own, becoming a stand-alone company after Fiat Chrysler (NYSE:FCAU) completed the famed carmaker's separation as part of an effort to extract value from the luxury brand.
Does it matter?
Founded in 1929 and best known for producing high-performance race cars, Ferrarri became part of Fiat in 1969 when the European carmaker took a 50% stake in it, eventually increasing its position to 90%. This past October, Fiat sold a 10% portion of its holdings in an IPO on the NYSE, and on Jan. 3 transferred to its shareholders the remaining 80% stake it still owned in Ferrari. Existing Fiat shareholders will receive one share of Ferrari for every 10 Fiat shares they own.
Part of the value extraction program initiated by Fiat CEO and Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne includes expanding the number of cars produced from a self-imposed limit of 7,000 cars to 9,000 by 2019. However, that is a risky maneuver as a luxury brand, as it needs to maintain an aura of exclusivity. Analysts think the limited-edition models Ferrari makes will help limit the fallout from making the cars in general more available. In August 2014, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO was auctioned off for almost $35 million, the most expensive car ever sold at auction.
Another component of Marchionne's plan also walks a fine line as he further transitions the car company into a lifestyle brand. Ferrari will increase the number of licensing agreements it signs for accessories such as sportswear, watches, and consumer electronics, as well as build out more theme parks. Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi opened in 2010 and a second one, called Ferrari Land, is due to open near Barcelona later this year, with more planned elsewhere around the world.
Sponsorships, commercial agreements, and licensing deals are lucrative for Ferrari and generated $110 million this past quarter, or more than 15% of its total revenues. Yet making the brand so ubiquitous also risks cheapening it -- though many still count on its racing heritage, which Marchionne has said he will not change, to continue building its mystique in the future.
With Ferrari off on its own, it may make it easier for Fiat Chrysler to find a buyer. The Wall Street Journal reported last summer that Marchionne has pursued General Motors over the past few years, but has been rebuffed each time.
Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.