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Ferrari may go all electric one day, whether fans want it to or not

  • Bans on gas cars may affect supercars as well.
  • High-end electrics offer lightning-quick acceleration.
  • Ferrari may be investing in electric powertrains.
2003 Ferrari Enzo.
National Motor Museum | Heritage Images | Getty Images
2003 Ferrari Enzo.

A variety of factors could essentially force Ferrari to go all electric at some point in the future, said Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas.

Onerous regulations or outright bans on internal combustion engines and the performance advantages of electric powertrains may pose an existential threat to companies like Ferrari. Jonas said Ferrari's recent push to increase volume and possible plan for an SUV may be steps toward covering the cost of investing in an electric powertrain.

First, the regulatory challenge: A few countries, such as the United Kingdom and China, have begun to take steps to eventually ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles. California is mulling taking a similar path.

"There is a growing list of cities around the world, particularly in Europe, that are seriously considering outlawing the operation of gasoline and diesel-powered cars by as soon as 2035 or
2040," Jonas said. "If you're on the board of Ferrari, do you ignore this fact? Can Ferrari even control this?"

Jonas is doubtful that cars such as Ferraris would be able to obtain exceptions to these bans.

Secondly, electric cars such as the Tesla Model S P100DL offer lightning-quick acceleration that is tough for internal combustion cars to meet or beat. This is not the only aspect of performance important to drivers, of course. Motor Trend said that while the Tesla set a new record — going 0-60 miles per hour in 2.7 seconds, the internal combustion hypercars pull ahead at higher speeds.

Jonas said most people he has spoken with think Ferrari will embrace hybrids, but not electrics. He challenged this view and said some of Ferrari's recent moves may be laying the ground for the expensive investment in a new powertrain. The company may make an SUV, and those tend to be high-margin vehicles. Ferrari is also pushing to increase its volume.

But is an electric Ferrari still a Ferrari?

Like many vehicle brands — Ford Mustang, Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and of course, most high-end supercars — Ferrari cars come equipped with fierce engines designed to deliver not just high performance, but a loud, brash, engine note that many would argue is essential to their appeal.

"We asked a client (who is also a Ferrari owner) what they thought of owning a beautiful, all-electric Ferrari with no internal combustion engine or exhaust note," Jonas said in a note sent Thursday. "The client responded with an analogy of eating a 3-D-printed soy donut. It might be sweet, round and have a hole in it — potentially still making it a donut. But it's kind of not a real donut anymore."