Pricing Power Through Scarcity: A Case Study of Ferrari

1 minutes reading time
Published 29 Feb 2024
Reviewed by: Kasper Karlsson

Pricing power refers to a company's ability to raise prices without losing customers. This ability is a significant aspect of a company's competitive advantage, often resulting from brand strength, product differentiation, market position, or operational efficiency. Another factor that distinctly enhances pricing power is scarcity, as seen with luxury brands such as Hermès and Ferrari. This article delves into how scarcity, alongside other factors, amplifies pricing power, focusing predominantly on Ferrari, the iconic Italian luxury sports car manufacturer.

Key Insights

  • Pricing power: Luxury brands like Ferrari exemplify how limiting supply while demand remains high allows a company to command premium prices, demonstrating the fundamental economic principle of supply and demand.

  • Ferrari's strategic scarcity: By deliberately restricting the number of cars produced, Ferrari ensures demand exceeds supply, enabling the brand to maintain high prices and exceptional profit margins compared to mass-market manufacturers like Volvo Cars.

  • Brand and customer experience: The combination of brand strength and customer loyalty supports Ferrari's ability to charge premium prices and sustain a waiting list of buyers.

  • Marketing and perceived exclusivity: Ferrari's careful brand management and marketing strategies enhance the perception of scarcity and exclusivity, aligning only with similarly prestigious brands and events.

Understanding Pricing Power

Pricing power is not merely the ability to set high prices but the capacity to maintain or increase profit margins over time, even in the face of inflation, rising costs, or economic downturns. Firms with strong pricing power can often command higher prices because their products or services are perceived as superior, unique, or highly desirable by consumers.

The Role of Scarcity in Pricing Power

Scarcity can significantly enhance a company's pricing power. When a product or service is scarce, but demand is high, companies can command higher prices. This principle is rooted in the basic economic theory of supply and demand: limited supply plus strong demand equals higher prices. Scarcity can be natural, as with rare minerals, or artificial, where companies consciously limit supply to create a perception of exclusivity.

Ferrari: A Case Study in Scarcity-Driven Pricing Power

Ferrari stands as a prime example of leveraging scarcity to enhance pricing power. The brand is synonymous with luxury, performance, and exclusivity, factors that are meticulously maintained through strategic production limitations and marketing.

Thus, when a business model focuses on scarcity and desirability, adopting a 'less is more' approach can be highly effective as in the case of Ferrari. For instance, in 2023, Volvo Cars sold approximately 52 times as many vehicles as Ferrari, with sales of 709,000 units compared to Ferrari's 13,700 units. When it comes to revenue, Volvo Cars generated about €35.3 billion, which is roughly six times more than Ferrari's €6 billion.

Interestingly, despite the significant difference in scale, Volvo Cars generated "only" €1.8 billion in operating income, accounting for 5% of its revenue. In contrast, Ferrari achieved €1.6 billion in operating income, which represents 27% of its revenue. This comparison highlights how a strategy focused on exclusivity can significantly impact profit margins.

The Power of Scarcity – Revenue and EBIT comparison between Ferrari and Volvo Cars.
Revenue and EBIT comparison between Ferrari and Volvo Cars.

Pricing Power Yielding a Higher EBIT Margin

Even when comparing EBIT margin on a wider scale. Ferrari with their 27% (alongside Porsche at 19%) stands out as prime examples of why scarcity matters. The median within the automotive industry for FY2023 was 7.7%.

Ferrari and Porsche – standout performers in terms of EBIT margins among automakers
Ferrari stands out with an EBIT margin of 27% for FY2023

Limited Production

Ferrari intentionally limits its production to maintain exclusivity and demand for its vehicles. Unlike mass-market automobile manufacturers such as Volvo Cars who strive to sell as many units as possible, Ferrari focuses on selling fewer cars at much higher prices. This strategy ensures that demand consistently outstrips supply, allowing Ferrari to maintain high prices and exceptional profit margins. Here's an intriguing quote on this topic from the CEO of Ferrari, Benedetto Vigna, from its 2022 Investor Day:

"Ferrari will always deliver one car less than the market demand. This is well summarized what Enzo Ferrari, our founder said, and I can assure you that this will never change." – CEO, Benedetto Vigna.

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Brand and Product Differentiation

Ferrari's brand is built on a rich heritage of racing success, Italian craftsmanship, and technological innovation. Each model is marketed as a masterpiece of design and engineering, appealing to a niche market of affluent customers who value these attributes. The brand's strong identity and the unique attributes of its cars justify the premium prices, reinforcing its pricing power.

Customer Loyalty and Experience

Ferrari cultivates an exclusive community of owners and enthusiasts, further enhancing its pricing power. The company offers a bespoke customer experience, from customization options to exclusive events and clubs for Ferrari owners. This sense of belonging and loyalty not only supports high prices but also creates a waiting list of buyers eager to own a piece of the Ferrari legacy, regardless of cost.

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Marketing and Scarcity Perception

Ferrari's marketing strategies reinforce the perception of scarcity and exclusivity. The company is selective about its partnerships and sponsorships, aligning only with brands and events that reflect its luxury status. This careful brand management ensures that the Ferrari name remains associated with exclusivity and high quality, supporting its ability to command premium prices. Below is a visual showcasing the gross margins of Ferrari, Porsche, and Mercedes over time.

Further reading: The Porsche Family's Race to the Top

Visualizing the gross margins of Ferrari, Porsche, and Mercedes

Ferrari Gross Margins
Gross margins over time of Ferrari, Porsche, and Mercedes.

In Conclusion

Ferrari's ability to maintain its pricing power through scarcity is a testament to the effectiveness of this strategy in the luxury market. By limiting production, focusing on brand and product differentiation, fostering customer loyalty, and managing its brand image carefully, Ferrari has created a business model that allows it to sell cars at premium prices successfully. This approach provides valuable insights for other companies seeking to enhance their pricing power in competitive markets. The key takeaway is that scarcity, when combined with strong brand identity and customer experience, can significantly enhance a company's ability to command higher prices and maintain superior profit margins.

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