Enzo Ferrari's Biggest Mistake


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What happens when one believes machines win races, not humans? And the organization and their leader are not willing to change? You get Enzo Ferrari who created an iconic car brand that almost disappeared.

In the following interview shortly before Enzo Ferrari’s death, he stated:

“Well, the relationship between car and driver is very simple. I have always thought that it could be fixed in an average percentage: the driver has 50% of merit and the car has the remaining 50% of the merit.

Now we’re living in a time in which we foresee a shift of this merit percentage into the car with the new constructions. That is, the reliability of the vehicle is taking a preponderance over the driver’s skills.”

Ferrari demonstrated on many occasions his belief that machines were more important than the people building, purchasing or driving them. His disregard of the human part of the equation and unwillingness to change got him into trouble.

For instance, in the early 1960s, the owner of a small farm tractor manufacturer had recently purchased his second Ferrari, a 250 GT. The man was dissatisfied with the car’s clutch, which needed to be serviced many times.

Using his mechanical ingenuity, the man had figured out a superior clutch system. He went to meet Enzo Ferrari to discuss his complaint along with his solution. Ferrari didn’t take kindly to feedback from a low tractor man. No one had ever questioned Enzo Ferrari’s talents before. Ferrari rifled back, “The problem is not with the car but with the driver!” In no kind terms, Ferrari advised the man to stick to tractors instead. Ferraris did not need improvement.

The rude dismissal did not sit well with the tractor man. He went home, sat at his family’s table and said to his family, “Did you hear how he treated me? I bought two Ferraris. I make 52 tractors a day. Who does he think he is? I will build a car.”

Who was this tractor man? Ferruccio Lamborghini.

Ferruccio set about designing his own car to compete with Ferrari and, in just four months, debuted the Lamborghini 350 GTV. The rest is history.

We’ve written about The Power of Detachment. Had Enzo Ferrari detached his ego and listened to the simple tractor man, he might have prevented his greatest competitor, Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A, from existing.

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