MILAN — Ferrari has turned to a tech executive to navigate the transition towards electrification in the automotive industry, appointing Benedetto Vigna as its new boss.
Vigna, a 52-year-old Italian national, currently leads the biggest division of Franco-Italian chip maker STMicrolectronics. He replaces former CEO Louis Camilleri who retired in December citing personal reasons, after being in the role for nearly two and a half years.
Ferrari Chairman John Elkann, the scion of Agnelli family which controls Ferrari through its investment company Exor, said the company was “delighted” to welcome Vigna as its new CEO.
“His deep understanding of the technologies driving much of the change in our industry, and his proven innovation, business-building and leadership skills, will further strengthen Ferrari and its unique story of passion and performance, in the exciting era ahead,” Elkann said in a statement on Wednesday.
Elkann has led Ferrari on an interim basis since Camilleri stepped down. In April he said Ferrari’s new CEO should have “all the right qualities, including importantly the technological capabilities,” playing down initial speculation that the new boss could have a background in luxury or retail.
Vigna will start at Ferrari on Sept. 1, the automaker said.
He is currently president of STMicroelectronics‘ Analog, MEMS (Micro-electromechanical Systems) and Sensors Group, its largest and most profitable operating business in 2020.
Vigna holds a degree in subnuclear physics from the University of Pisa. He joined ST in 1995 and oversaw the company’s first steps in MEMS, helping build its strong market position in motion-activated user interfaces.
Vigna was appointed president of the Analog, MEMS and Sensors division in January 2016. It had revenues of $3.89 billion in 2020 with an operating margin of 20.8 percent.
Vigna and his team were among pioneers of the “three axis gyroscope” that debuted in the Apple iPhone 4, which allows the screen to adapt to portrait or landscape format as users turned the handset. This sensor technology is now used in all mobile phones as well as for ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) navigation and active safety in cars.
At Ferrari, Vigna is taking over at a company that has been slow in committing to battery-operated automotive applications, a stance increasingly complicated by tightening regulations on emissions.
While the Maranello, Italy-based manufacturer debuted a plug-in hybrid in 2019, Elkann only recently outlined plans for a full-electric model for 2025.
Vigna’s appointment shows Ferrari’s development strategy remains firmly anchored in making cutting-edge, high-end cars in an electric future, rather than repositioning itself towards pure luxury.
With cars starting at over 200,000 euros ($244,000), investors often look at Ferrari as more of a luxury firm than automotive specialist and there had been some speculation its new CEO might come from the world of premium consumer goods.
Pietro Solidoro, an analyst at Bestinver said Vigna’s appointment should reduce market concerns about Ferrari’s future and its path towards its first electric vehicle. “We believe that he will be able to further accelerate Ferrari’s ability to remain ahead of the curve in next-gen technologies compared to the automotive sector,” Solidoro said.
Despite recently pushing back its 2022 financial targets by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ferrari booked a profit last year and has not delayed its roll-out plan for new models.
Vigna, however, faces several challenges on top of leading the automaker into an era of electric mobility.
He will have to revive Ferrari’s fortunes in Formula One after its worst racing season in 40 years in 2020.
He will also have to manage the company’s new brand extension strategy without undermining the exclusivity that has supported its premium pricing and profit.
Bloomberg contributed to this report