Italian luxury sports car maker and Formula 1 team, Ferrari named as its (relatively unknown) new chief executive Benedetto Vigna, a physics graduate who has spent the last 26 years at chipmaker STMicroelectronics.
Apart from leading the most iconic car manufacturer and one of the most recognisable global brands, he will have to revive Ferrari’s fortunes in Formula 1 after its worst racing season in 40 years in 2020.
Following are some highlights of Vigna’s career.
- Vigna, 52, leads ST’s division in charge of sensors and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), the company’s biggest and most profitable business in 2020.
- ST’s Analog, MEMS and Sensors division, where Vigna was appointed president in January 2016, had revenues of $3.89 billion in 2020 with an operating margin of 20.8%.
- Vigna, who holds a degree in subnuclear physics from the University of Pisa, 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 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.
- A recognised industry leader and innovator, Vigna has more than 200 patents on micro-machining and has authored numerous publications. In 2013 he won both the MEMS Industry Group’s Executive of the Year Award and the European SEMI Award.
- He joined the MEMS & Sensor Industry Group board in June 2019. Since February 2020, Vigna has been a member of the Electronics Cluster Advisory Board for the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) of Singapore.
Ferrari has thus turned to a technology industry veteran Vigna – unknown in automotive circles – to drive the luxury sports car maker known for its roaring, high-octane engines into a new era of silent, electric powertrains.
Vigna, a 52-year-old Italian and physics graduate, currently runs the biggest division of chipmaker STMicroelectronics (ST) (STM.BN), where he has worked since 1995 and helped pioneer screen technology used in early Apple (AAPL.O) iPhones. read more
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.
“His unique knowledge gained over 26 years working at the heart of the semiconductor industry that is rapidly transforming the automotive sector, will accelerate Ferrari’s ability to pioneer the application of next-generation technologies,” the company said on Wednesday.
With cars starting at over 200,000 euros ($244,000), investors often look at Ferrari as more of a luxury firm than an automotive specialist and there had been some speculation its new CEO might come from the world of premium consumer goods.
Vigna’s appointment fills a six-month vacancy at the helm of after former Chief Executive Louis Camilleri retired nearly two and a half years into the job in December for personal reasons.
Chairman John Elkann, the scion of the Agnelli family which controls Ferrari through its investment firm Exor (EXOR.MI), said in a statement that the company was delighted to welcome a technology industry leader aboard.
“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,” he said.
Ferrari, which already offers hybrid models, has promised to deliver its first electric car by 2025.
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.
By 1150 GMT Ferrari shares were down 1.3%, underperforming a 0.3% drop in the Italian bourse blue-chip index (.FTMIB).
Elkann has led Ferrari on an interim basis since Camilleri, who had a more cautious approach to electrification, left.
Elkann made clear in April the new CEO would need the right technological capabilities, playing down initial speculation the new boss could have a luxury or consumer goods background. read more
Exor, which has invested in the luxury sector in recent months, on Wednesday dismissed a report that said investment banks had proposed that Ferrari merge with Italian fashion brand Armani. read more
Vigna is president of ST’s Analog, Micro-electromechanical Systems and Sensors group, its largest and most profitable operating business in 2020. He will leave on Aug. 31, the chipmaker said, and start at Ferrari the next day.
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.
Apart from reviving the Scuderia, Vigna will also have to manage the company’s new brand extension strategy without undermining the exclusivity that has supported its premium pricing and profit. (Reporting by Valentina Za)