I heard a brief version of this story from a friend and I decided to dig deeper and got fascinated by what I found and decided to share it.
For car junkies out there, you probably know which car is the better make and model and which one is fastest and has better features etc. This article is not about that, it is about the story behind the cars.
Ferrari and Lamborghini are two rival dealers, but how did the rivalry even start? That is the real question.
Here is a little history on what exactly caused the rivalry that still exists today:
Ferruccio Lamborghini had been born into a family of grape farmers.
He did not share the farming passion like his family, instead, he was more interested in mechanics.
Ferruccio Lamborghini had served in the Air Force during World War II. Afterwards, he had taken old military machines and re-purposed them as agriculture supplies such as tractors.
He became very wealthy from his tractor business.
Like anyone who comes into wealth, he bought several luxury cars, including a Ferrari.
Ferruccio Lamborghini had a passion for cars, so much so that he began racing some of the cars he had purchased.
However, since he knew quite a bit about car mechanics he decided that the cars he raced needed a little changing.
When it came to racing his Ferrari, he noticed that it was much too noisy and rough on the road. Another issue with the car was that the interior clutch needed repairing often.
During the 1960s, Enzo Ferrari’s cars were the top-of-the-line in luxury sports cars.
Since he was so good a mechanic, Lamborghini decided to tell Ferrari about the imperfections he found in his cars.
Considering Ferrari was the top dog of the car business, he did not appreciate the young tractor mechanic telling him about the imperfections.
Enzo Ferrari believed Ferruccio Lamborghini did not know a thing about his cars, or cars in general.
When Ferrari told Lamborghini he did not want advice from the tractor mechanic, a rivalry had begun.
This started Lamborghini’s passion for cars. It had been merely a hobby for him before, but Lamborghini decided to turn his hobby into a passion.
He saw Ferrari’s insult as his driving force for starting work on his own type of luxury car. He began designing different models of his own brand.
So what started as an innocent complaint about a Ferrari clutch resulted in a new competitor.
This reminds me of Steve Jobs’s annoyance from a Microsoft employee who was bragging about their new cool piece of technology called a tablet using a stylus pen at a party they both attended.
Jobs was so annoyed about the idea of using a stylus pen that he decided to show Microsoft how a tablet should be designed using a human being’s “natural stylus pen” our fingers and we know who successful in that race, the iPad.
But I digress, back to the story of the clutch complaint gone crazy.
In only four months, Ferruccio Lamborghini revealed the Lamborghini 350 GTV at the Turin Motor Show in October of 1963.
By the end of 1964, Lamborghini had sold his first 13 cars. The name had eventually changed to the 350 GT.
After Lamborghini brought competition to Ferrari, he decided to pursue other businesses and he became a very wealthy man before he was 50 years old.
By the early 1960s, Lamborghini had become almost as powerful and wealthy as Ferrari.
Many people believed that he was crazy for wanting to build a sports car to compete with Ferrari.
Ferrari had years on him and was already quite wealthy by the time the Lamborghini had been built.
People believed that wanting to build a car as great as Ferrari’s was impossible, they believed it was too risky.
Lamborghini had begun working on his project in 1962, and by May of 1963 he had officially founded Automobili Ferruccio Lamborghini.
He decided to buy a plot of land in Sant’Agata Bolognese.
On this plot of land he built a new, large factory for his car business. Due to his experience from his other companies, especially his tractor business, he was able to set up one of the best facilities for his car company.
In fact, his factory was such a functional structure and rock solid that it was un-rivaled.
The manufacturing building was the central building, adjacent to it was the office building, allowing the management to be constantly monitored.
This was the perfect thing for Lamborghini, since he preferred to go work on the cars personally when he saw something that was not being done right.
After plans for the first model were released, Lamborghini had a few months to build the factory and set a date for the first presentation of the first model.
Being an avid and passionate mechanic, he had chosen the best pieces for his cars. He had chosen the engine from Giotto Bizzarrini, who had actually designed some of Ferrari’s recent engines during the time period.
For the other car pieces, he had hired two young engineers named Giampaolo Dallara and Giampaolo Stanzani.
With the team’s work, they released the 350 GT at the Turin Motor Show.
There is saying that goes: Hell knows no fury like a woman scorned. I think in this case, hell know no fury than a customer, a rich customer, scorned.
What are my lessons from this:
- Be nice to your customers, even when you disagree with them. At Lora Centre, we have leadership class session on how to handle difficult conversations. Enzo could have handled that complaint better. Would Ferruccio Lamborghini have started his car brand if his complaint was handled with care, I’m not sure, but based on the story, the insult fueled him to start.
- No matter how successful you are, don’t be arrogant. Learn to be humble and treat people with respect irrespective of their social standing.
- The best way to complain is to make your own thing. Ferruccio Lamborghini would have made noise and screamed for everyone to boycott Ferrari because of how his complaint was handled, but instead he did something better, he created his own brand. You don’t like how something is done? Show us how it should be done, do it yourself.
So to summarise a long-story short:
A tractor company owner was once insulted by the owner of Ferrari with these words: “You may be able to drive a tractor but you will never be able to handle the Ferrari properly.” Today the tractor company is known as Lamborghini.
PS: I’m sure there are other learnings from this story you have picked up, please feel to share them on the comment section below.