Ferrari hopes a scientist will be able to drive innovation at the storied car company.
Ferrari has changed gears in the terms of corporate leadership. The Italian luxury-car manufacturer has picked Benedetto Vigna as its new chief executive officer, effective September 1, filling the vacancy left by the abrupt retirement of former CEO Louis Camilleri in 2020.
The 52-year-old tech industry veteran currently runs the biggest division of STMicro, Europe’s largest chipmaker. His experience in the automotive sector is nonexistent—but that might be exactly what the iconic brand needs right now.
A graduate with honors in subnuclear physics, while at STMicro, Vigna earned the nickname “Mr. 200 Patents,” for, among other things, a 3D motion sensor he designed for car airbags that was subsequently used in Nintendo Wii game consoles. With his team, he also pioneered a three-axis gyroscope used today in billions of mobile phones and tablets around the world to automatically switch between portrait and landscape views.
Why Vigna? “Because he is an innovative scientist, a courageous manager and a winning leader,” says Carlo Alberto Carnevale Maffè, professor of strategy at SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan. “What else is Ferrari supposed to be, if not a trial of invention, technology and global success?” After all, Carnevale Maffè argues, the car of the future is nothing but a big electronic gyroscope: “All you have to do is take those innovations that made Vigna popular in the electronics industry and add four wheels.”
That is less hyperbolic than it might seem. Vigna’s appointment aims to address market concerns regarding a company that has been slow to embrace electric mobility, digital and AI gadgetry and software. The new CEO’s most delicate task will be finding the balance between tradition and innovation. Ferrari carries in its DNA an intangible aura of glamor and hi-tech aesthetics, the indelible legacy of founder Enzo Ferrari, Carnevale Maffè says: “Vigna will have to prove that he knows how to marry the brand’s already extraordinary esprit de géométrie with the perfect amount of esprit de finesse needed to preserve the unique identity of the Prancing Horse of Maranello.”