For $2M, they throw in the sheets

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You can tell a lot about a guy who drives a Ferrari.

He's 45 to 50, and is more likely than not to own a private jet. There's a one-in-five chance he also has a motorboat. He's probably on his second Ferrari-oh, and he'll spend about $25,000 customizing the car.

Although the purveyor of handmade cars sold a mere 1,500 units in the U.S. 2005, the Italian automaker spends millions of dollars annually on customer relationship management and knows its customers well. "We have 20,000 owners in the U.S. and we need to know them by name," said Marco Mattiacci, VP-marketing in North America. Ferrari also knows these millionaires and even billionaires "are looking for more unique things with more adrenaline than a golf game on Sunday."

That's led the automaker to open up its first owners' driving school outside Italy, bringing in professional drivers from Italy and the U.S. as instructors on the former Formula One race track in Canada's Mount-Tremblant.

The Ferrari Driving Experience, opening in May, will be the "ultimate" for owners and their spouses-on and off the track, Mr. Mattiacci said. Owners will pay an undisclosed amount for an exclusive two-and-a-half-day stay at Quebec's lakeside Hotel Quintessence, where no detail is too small. They can even pick the kind of coffee or sheets they want.

Ferrari will provide a dozen 490-horsepower F430s. That sleek model went on sale about a year ago and already has a two-year waiting list. But the trip isn't just about speeding around the track. Owners will learn a "complete understanding of the technical contents of the car and how to get the best out of the car," Mr. Mattiacci said.

The carmaker, which doesn't do mass-market advertising, is getting the word out about the event through its monthly owner newsletter in February.

Among the automaker's other events are the Ferrari Challenge, a series of six U.S. races for owners only, with the finals held in Italy. In addition, owners can pay $5,925 to enter the Ferrari Challenge Rally, three-day touring trips on scenic roads with stays at fine hotels. And Ferrari Fest, with its historic car races and entertainment, attracts 10,000 people over a three-day weekend.


Though competitor Automobili Lamborghini stages owner drives-it recently wrapped up a week-long owner-only event at a Miami race track as part of the launch of its new Gallardo Spyder, a spokeswoman said-Ferrari claims bragging rights as the only automaker with a sanctioned race series for its owners.

To be sure, other auto marketers offer goodies to owners. BMW of North America has a Performance Center next to its Spartanburg, S.C., plant, where buyers can get high-performance driving lessons on a test track as part of the delivery package. Mercedes-Benz USA offers a similar program near its Tuscaloosa, Ala., plant for the M-Class SUVs made there.

But Ferrari, which Mr. Mattiacci calls the "most exclusive car manufacturer in the world," goes a lap further. A year after owners asked for a 12-cylinder convertible, Ferrari launched the 12-cylinder, 540-horsepower Superamerica in early 2005. Two hundred were sold in the U.S. last year. Ferrari also introduced the FXX super sports car last year and sold only 10 of the 29 FXX in the U.S. The car, which costs $2 million, can only be driven on race tracks.

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