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Maybe Mercedes needs to jump in and have some SLK,s on hand.:grin:



Push-Start was the first Ferrari test drive business to open in Maranello six years ago, but others have popped up since. (AP Photo/Marco Vasini)

The highly valued and much-desired Ferrari brand is at the center of a free-market struggle that has nothing to do with its successful Wall Street stock listing, its impending spin-off or even chairman Sergio Marchionne’s grand plan to command an even higher premium by transforming the super car maker into a luxury goods company.

Just outside the gates of the Ferrari Museum in the carmaker’s birthplace of Maranello, entrepreneurial spirit is clashing with communal concerns for safety and even decorum as a growing gaggle of unaffiliated, independent Ferrari test-drive businesses say they are fighting for survival amid tightening rules imposed by the city.

“We are entrepreneurs, and we are in a tourist town, and I can’t promote my business,’’ said Maja Corluka Valestri, owner of Pit Lane Red Passion, adding that the economic damage from the new rules was already evident. “We have lost 80 percent of business. I’ve already sent all the documents to my lawyer.’’

The test-drive businesses have been cashing in on the super car maker’s global appeal by offering aficionados without the wealth to buy their own hot wheels a high-powered spin “for the price of a dinner out,’’ as one business owner put it.

That translates to 80 euros for a 10-minute drive in a Ferrari F430 Spider. For a two-hour spin around the nearby hills in a Ferrari 458 Special, the check goes up to 1,400 euros. All test drives are accompanied by a trained race car driver, per uncontested city rules. While such businesses exist in cities around the world, from London to Paris to Las Vegas, driving a Ferrari around Maranello is an unrivaled experience for the true Ferrari fan.



The price list for a Ferrari test drive, which can range from 80 euros for 10 minutes to 1,400 euros for two hours. (AP Photo/Marco Vasini)

“We tried a California and a Berlinetta in Moscow at a dealership. My husband wants to buy one, if possible, so we came to Maranello,’’ said Anna, a tourist from Russia who declined to give her last name. Her only disappointment: “I wanted to go faster.’’

Now accessible to the masses, the Ferrari roar through the streets of Maranello is no longer the bragging right of a new owner. It’s become a constant backdrop as dozens of would-be Schumachers and Vettels rev up and peel out, complains Maranello Mayor Massimiliano Morini.

And with new startups competing to attract potential customers among the 300,000 people who visit the Ferrari museum each year, Morini says there have been some unruly scenes as barkers board tour buses and scuffle with competitors in the museum parking lot.

“They are obviously big cylinder cars that are very powerful, and the cars are circulating on the same streets with regular traffic,’’ Morini said, prompting both noise complaints and the added expense of increased traffic patrols. “You can understand that this creates a very big problem of cohabitation for those living nearby who understandably want and have the right to rest.’’

So far, there have been no significant accidents, according to city officials, and the test-drive business owners say the most damage has come from scraping wheels on curbs. That hasn’t lessened safety concerns.
 
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