As Big As It Is Ugly: Ferrari's New Key Fob

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

At a private event in Rome this week, Ferrari introduced its newest model — the Roma. Described by Ferrari Commercial Director Enrico Galliera as an automobile for “people who would like to drive a sports car, or a Ferrari, but are a little bit afraid of Ferrari and sportscars,” it boasts one of the worst marketing taglines imaginable.

It also has a key fob that’s embarrassing to carry around — assuming shame is an emotion still within your repertoire.

While high-performance exotics aren’t widely known for being tasteful, Ferrari has always had a thin veneer of respectability brands like Lamborghini lacked. Owning one gave off the impression that you might have a mild appreciation for brand heritage or some interest in motorsport. At the very least, the prevailing prejudices would presume you were a probably a car snob with strong opinions and nuanced tastes.

Unfortunately, the Roma (Rome) and its gaudy key are helping to dissipate that formerly effective illusion.

We assume Galliera was attempting to highlight the Roma’s role as a grand touring car. The actual slogan for the model is “la Nuova Dolce Vita” (the new sweet life). But Galliera’s line seems far more informative on how the brand sees its future customers.

The Roma is exceptionally handsome, sleek and clean looking. In all honesty, it’s probably one of the most attractive Aston Martins this author has seen in years. Sadly, it’s supposed to be a new model from Ferrari. Maybe that explains why the company decided to give it a key that’s literally a hood ornament. “No, I swear it’s a Ferrari,” you’ll plead to strangers who have no interest in interacting with you. “I have this giant rectangle in my pocket to prove it!”

Evidence of the key was provided by Top Gear’s Jack Rix, who was in attendance of Roma’s reveal. “New Ferrari key… way more visible when you drop it in the bowl on the way in,” he joked while sharing photos.

Ferrari’s previous key was similarly unsubtle, boasting branded lettering and red paint. But it still managed to offer a smidgen more good taste than this new one does. Here’s our guess as to why:

The Ferrari brand lives and dies by its name. It doesn’t engage in a lot of advertising — relying on race events, media feedback, and its own merchandise (where it makes a lot of money) to do the work instead. And it’s hoping to expand its branding/merch efforts via new products and a partnership with Giorgio Armani on high-end wares. More merchandise means more eyes on the company and more prospective customers. Because someone who already owns a Ferrari probably won’t bother spending $400 on a branded red watch or puffy jacket — but someone who bought those items and doesn’t own a Ferrari probably wants one rather badly.

Step two involves the Roma itself. Based on the Portofino, it’s likely to be a more affordable way to get into the brand. New customers will assuredly want to let the the world know what they’re driving and the shameless key does a lot of the plug work for them.

If you’re interested in the Roma, it comes with a turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 making 612 horsepower (a bit more than Portofino) at 7,500 rpm and 561 lb-ft of peak torque. Banging through the model’s eight-speed, dual-clutch automatic will have 62 mph coming on in 3.4 seconds, according to the manufacturer. 124 mph is said to be available in 9.3 seconds, with the top end settling in at 199 mph. Dry weight is a claimed 3,245 pounds.

Electronic trickery abounds, with Ferrari Roma offering torque vectoring (via individual brakes), an adaptive spoiler, slide-slip control (version 6.0), and more. It also has a modern-looking interior that isolates driver from passenger in their own little pods. It’s a slight departure to be sure, but perhaps one that plays into its customer base — just like that hideous key.

Sales are expected to commence next summer with a price tag slightly higher than the Portofino’s $215,000 MSRP.

New Ferrari key… way more visible when you drop it in the bowl on the way in

— Jack Rix (@jack_rix) November 14, 2019

[Images: Jack Rix/ Twitter; Ferrari]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 29 comments
  • Mcs Mcs on Nov 16, 2019

    "Yeah, I was gonna buy a Ferrari, but you know, the key FOB was too embarrassing to carry around, so I went with a KIA. Now they make a classy FOB. I don't know how those Ferrari guys can live with themselves." Who cares about the key FOB. If it's designed right, you just keep it in your pocket or wallet and never take it out. Besides, in a world of multi-million dollar Koenigseggs and Paganis, Ferrari isn't that impressive these days.

  • Cdotson Cdotson on Nov 18, 2019

    Isn't Roma the colloquial name used to refer to individuals of Romani ethnicity in Eastern Europe? It sounds more Italian than "gypsy." I don't know about Italy, but I used to live in an area that had pockets of Romani settlers and one could always tell them out in public as the women all appeared to be going for a 1950s debutante look and the men looked to be straight out of The Godfather. Big, bold, and garish...seems appropriate for the name.

  • 28-Cars-Later Seriously, $85. GM Delta I is burning hot garbage to the point where the 1990 Saturn Z-body is leagues better. My mother inherited an '07 Ion with 30Kish otc which was destroyed in 2014 by a tipsy driver with a suspended license (driver's license enforcement is a joke in Pennsyltucky). Insurance paid out $6,400 when it was only worth about $5,800 IIRC, but sure 10 year later the "hipo" Delta I can fetch how much?
  • Buickman styling does not overcome powertrain, follow the money. labor/materials.
  • VoGhost It's funny, until CDK raises their prices to cover the cost. And then the stealerships do even more stealing because they're certainly not taking the hit - why do you think they make all those political donations? So who pays in the end?
  • VoGhost I was talking today to a guy who pulled up in an '86 Camry. Said it ran like a top, got 30 mpg, the AC was ice cold and everywhere he goes, people ask to buy it. He seemed happy.
  • VoGhost TL:DL. Younger people less racist.