By Raylí Luján
On his first visit to Caracas, a car-loving tourist this month came across a scene that seemed like a mirage: a Ferrari showroom with huge windows in the Las Mercedes neighborhood, known for concentrating high-end apartments and luxury stores in the Venezuelan capital.
“Is it for real?” he asked a friend and tour guide, who confirmed what he had only seen on social media.
Sales of luxury sports cars have resumed in Venezuela, despite the country going through one of the most critical periods in its economic history in recent years.
The showroom surprised the young tourist, who preferred not to be identified for security reasons. He has worked for the past decade restoring a classic Ferrari model in his family for 35 years.
Ferrari opened its doors in Venezuela in 1988, more than 30 years ago, with the opening of one of the world’s first eight authorized Ferrari dealerships.
In 1993, businessman Marco (who prefers not to disclose his last name) took over the business before receiving new authorization to import the cars to Venezuela.
With the rise of Chavismo and the worsening economic situation in Venezuela, businesses began to experience difficulties.
In December 2007, the Italian entrepreneur, who has lived in Venezuela for more than 40 years, had his operations suspended due to the Venezuelan import embargo.
Although he could operate in other markets in Latin America until the situation improved, the suspension was a cause for concern.
The businessman kept a specialized workshop in operation until he could reopen the Ferrari dealership and sell vehicles again in 2021.
“If Venezuela has already prospered, why couldn’t it do it again?” the businessman told Bloomberg Línea.
He recalled the rides that used to be held in the Los Próceres neighborhood in the west of the city and those that are to be resumed, along with a specialized driving school, which he hopes can operate between San Carlos, Turagua, and Puerto Ordaz in the country’s interior.
“This is a passion that goes beyond cars,” says Carlos Alberto Silva, sales manager at the Ferrari dealership in Caracas.
Alberto Silva has also witnessed this passion among the customers who visit the showroom opened in Las Mercedes in 2021.
“They [the customers] are still the same, and of course, there are new ones too, but the automaker itself asks us to review their profile,” says the manager.
Despite the great social inequality in the country, he has seen some economic improvements since last year, although benefiting few.
The Ferrari dealership has not only been criticized for its reopening amid an adverse economic context but also for its alleged links with pro-government sectors and a recent case of corruption within the state-owned company Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).
However, the dealership disassociates itself from this case and insists on the transparency of its documentation and the public information available about it.
Under the ownership of Maranello Motorsports, the dealership pays regular tariffs for importing expensive vehicles that are as high as 50% of the original price of the goods, according to the requirements of the country’s customs and tax authority, Seniat.
“Prices vary according to the local tax component, and terms of sale are governed according to the most commonly used methods in international trade,” explains Claudia Pita, marketing manager at Ferrari Caracas, when asked about the payment methods used given the currency restrictions still in place in Venezuela.
The exclusive, high-end vehicles have aroused the interest of certified fans and collectors, which prevents, in the opinion of Silva, Ferrari’s sales manager, personalities with money of dubious origin or obtained illicitly from acquiring the cars.
“Why sell to someone who doesn’t fit among the rest? It would be a problem to sell a car to someone with illicit money – a problem for the Ferrari community.”
“It’s a matter of experience. Will someone with easy money appreciate something so exclusive (not because it is expensive, but because it is exclusive)?”
“They will prefer to buy something else,” he added.
Customers can customize their cars, mainly as collector models, and some of them are transported to their homes.
Others prefer to take them to the countryside and bring them to Caracas for maintenance.
There are at least 100 Ferraris in the country, although the company does not disclose the annual number of sales.
More than the increase in sales in Venezuela, the company’s expectations are focused on meeting production deadlines, which vary between six and 24 months for the arrival of orders from Italy and which, although not in significant numbers, meet the demands of the factory and its limited production.
With information from Bloomberg
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