MARANELLO, Italy-It looks like it's moving, even when standing still, half-assembled. Ferrari. That tell-tale insignia of a rearing, spirited stallion graces the hood of the elite sports car, is on the gates of the automaker's plant, even on the ristorante it owns across the street.
It is the identity of Maranello, south of Milan.
Here, the high-pitched whine of a Ferrari being downshifted through its paces on the company's nearby Fiorano test track echoes through town, still drawing throngs of tourists and residents alike who climb trees, fences and line a highway overpass to glimpse a fire-red blur screeching through an S-turn.
The company marks its 50th anniversary next year. It literally began in the cockpit of a 1947 race car developed, built and backed by founder/patriarch Enzo Ferrari. Although he died in 1988, his presence still seems to be felt within the plant's yellow concrete walls.
``Racing is in our blood,'' a Ferrari spokesman told North American journalists touring the Ferrari factory during a trip to Milan sponsored by Pirelli Armstrong Tire Corp. Pirelli tires come as original equipment on more than 50 percent of the Ferraris produced.
The automaker haughtily claims it doesn't have to market or advertise its cars-you either have ``a passion'' for one and have to have it (and can afford it), or you don't.
Ferrari calls North America its ``first'' market, with the West Coast a primary pasture for sales.
While the Maranello plant is technologically sophisticated, a modern assembly line snakes along an aisle where workers hand-assemble vehicle cockpits at a rate of 0.8 cars per day. Amid gleaming camshafts and racks of engine components stacked and waiting on floors spotless enough to eat off of, eight-, 10- and 12-cylinder powerplants are painstakingly assembled by teams.
``We don't push to have too many Ferraris,'' a spokesman said. Only between 3,000 and 3,300 cars are made annually, in part to preserve the mystique and exclusivity of the badge-not to mention a 12-month or longer waiting list.
There is, however, nothing mystical about a Ferrari's pricetag.
``It's impossible to take a Ferrari out of here unless it's paid for first,'' the spokesman stated. ``That's one of the things Enzo Ferrari believed in.''
Ferrari offers no ``company cars'' for executives. And whether folklore or not, it is claimed that Enzo, too, actually bought his Ferraris.
``If you like to have a Ferrari, one of the pleasures is paying for it!'' the spokesman said with a smirk.