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Ferrari is gold medal contender in auto world

The Olympics are all about high performance athletes, and Italy is all about high performance cars. If they gave out gold medals for automakers, Ferrari would certainly be on the winners’ pedestal all by itself.

The world’s most celebrated automotive company has built spectacular sports cars in the tiny Italian town of Maranello — three hours from Torino with only 15,000 inhabitants — since 1947, when the legend himself, Enzo Ferrari, set up shop here.

Don’t expect to see your typical automobile assembly line here in Maranello. At Ferrari, there are no robotic arms at work — just real ones. Everything is done by hand. Even the leather in the sports cars is carefully stitched.

In fact, you might say the production line is the only part of Ferrari where speed is not of the essence, because when you’re building a $200,000 luxury sports car, it’s all about precision. And precision might best describe Ferrari’s business model. The carmaker won’t even produce a car until there’s a buyer for it.

Ferrari’s strategy is to keep its brand as exclusive as possible. Here on the Ferrari assembly line, workers only turn out about 20 cars a day, and the waiting list for one of the cars they produce can be as long as two years.

It’s not that Ferrari can’t sell more cars says Ferrari’s Deputy General Manager Amadeo Felisa. It just doesn’t want to.

“You don’t have the possibility to go into the dealership and go out with the car,” he said. “You have to go there and say, ‘I want to have a Ferrari of my own.’”

It’s a line Ferrari has been toeing for years, selling just enough vehicles to keep the market hungry for more.

Driving enjoyment is key notes Ferrari’s Felisa: “When you start your engine, you understand that you’re in a Ferrari car,” he said.

Racing is also important to Ferrari. After all, it’s the only automotive company to be in Formula One since its inception.

Today, one of Ferrari’s vehicles is drawing locals and tourists out their cars to gawk. They’re hoping for a glimpse, if only for a moment, of Formula One king Michael Schumacher whipping the latest Ferrari race car around the test track near Maranello.