Years ago, working as a humble petrol pump attendant on Saturdays in an attempt to scrape together enough spare change to fuel my addiction for all things motorised, the chap who ran the workshop excitedly hustled me inside to show me the Ferrari they had in the workshop for a service.
I forget now, but it was probably a 355 as they were fairly new at the time. Sensing how underwhelmed I was he somewhat disdainfully asked if I preferred Porsches and I told him that I’d probably rather a 911, yes. ‘You’ll change your mind if you ever get to drive them both’, he replied. I’m still a big fan of the ubiquitous 911, but have since learned that when it comes to Ferraris it’s a case of ‘those who know, know…’
Nestled deep within the New Forest, where horses wander freely, the pace of life is relaxed and things are generally peaceful, you might happen upon Meridien Modena’s brand new, state of the art Ferrari service centre – making it entirely possible that a handful of thoroughbred Italian horses might also be found disturbing the peace from time to time. When you set foot inside the workshop, it’s not only hard to believe that they ceremoniously plunged the first shovel into the earth to begin building the facility a mere one year ago, but also that the entire operation was born from such humble roots.
Thirty or so years ago a little way down the road in Lyndhurst, a father and his sons decided to take on an ailing former Rover dealerhsip and start selling second-hand sportscars. They managed to do a roaring trade in MGBs and Trimph TRs and soon became the place to go for a sporty little number in Hampshire, until one day a make-or-break opportunity arose in the guise of taking on the stock of a bankrupt Maserati dealership – all forty or so cars. Ambitious and highly driven (pun absolutely intended), this family team set to the task and managed to sell every single Maserati within six months, leading to a phonecall from a mysterious Italian man offering them a further 25 Maseratis, should they so wish. A few months on, and with another job lot of Italian sportscars in the hands of happy customers, the Italian man, who it transpires was calling from Maserati in Italy, asked if they’d like to become an official dealer. History was written once more when Fiat conducted a convoluted transaction that involved selling 50% of Maserati to Ferrari, which is of course also owned by Fiat, a process that led to absorbing Maserati sales into Ferrari dealerships worldwide. Meridien Modena had already signed a contract to continue selling Maserati and weren’t impressed at the suggestion that they hand over the brand to anyone else, but after a series of negotiations found themselves building a brand new Ferrari showroom that stands proud in Lyndhurst today, taking on Ferrari too, and beginning their next chapter.
Their hard work and dedication to acheive the highest standards as a Maserati dealership was key to acquiring the hallowed Ferrari dealership status, and recognition from the top brass in Modena came their way yet again last year when their service department were awarded the Ferrari Global Aftersales Dealer of the Year Award at the annual Ferrari Dealer Conference held at the Fiorano Circuit in Italy. The only ‘negative’ held against them? That they simply weren’t quite a big enough operation. Having scored admirably high marks across the board in all of the other judging criteria they decided that the only way to continue progressing was to invest £3.5m in creating the Ferrari service centre that I had the pleasure of visiting when it opened last month.
With this expansion, the intention is not only to further improve the level of service they provide, if such a feat is even possible, but also to allow them the capacity to carry out servicing and repairs in shorter timescales, down from a peak of six weeks to between three and five days, which is quite some improvement. They also want to roll up their workshop doors to new customers with an eye to welcoming ageing prancing horses back into the fold, so to speak, by bringing older Ferraris that’ve had a multitude of owners and have been serviced outside of the dealer network back to perfection where, in many cases, maintenance might not have been carried out by somebody quite as fastidious as the technicians they employ. And on the subject of fastidiousness, Meridien Modena’s service centre are now also able to provide the Ferrari ‘Classiche’ service, restoring and repairing older vehicles to original specifications – a service that was previously only carried out by Ferrari in Maranello, Italy.
Combining the spotlessly clean, bright and airy downstairs workspace with a centrally-located vehicle lift that provides access to a storage area on the first floor is the key to keeping productivity high. Upstairs, vehicles are arranged in an arc to follow the form of the building. With an array of further lifts allowing them to store vehicles two rows high, a total of 35 cars can kept upstairs alone at any time. This proved to be the most logical use of the wedge-shaped plot, which was the only conveniently located land available to purchase, and allows a staggering 80 vehicles to be securely kept on site at once. In turn, this allows them to remove an engine downstairs, for example, then store the vehicle on the first floor to keep the workshop clear of any superfluous machinery whilst carrying out reparative work, and it’s this increase in available workshop space that helps keep things flowing. It isn’t just a simple and efficient workflow, but a sight to behold and a beautiful way to showcase the variety of machinery that passes through their workshop bays. They cater for all Ferraris, from those with Classiche status right up to modern hybrids and have every last piece of workshop equipment imaginable at their disposal in order to do so – including highly insulative rubber boots that enable their staff to work safely around hybrid battery systems (whilst probably looking woefully un-cool). On top of this, they’ve installed a parts carousel system that allows them to hold over 3,000 parts in stock for quick and straightforward access. Naturally, there’s also a very pleasant lounge for clients to relax in whilst visiting, with the bonus of being able to see right into the workshop through its floor-to-ceiling glass walls. It’s an understated, perfectly formed slice of Modena in the heart of Hampshire.
You can design in as much workflow efficiency as you like, but without staff bearing the requisite mindset to make it work it would be all for nothing. I’d imagine that ensuring an operation such as this runs smoothly at all times is a gargantuan task, but chatting to their very approachable, knowledgeable and modest service manager and discovering that his background was in Formula 1, notably as part of Alonso’s 2005 championship-winning team, put things into perspective. I’m pretty confident that he and his team have got what it takes. They’ve also taken on seven new staff, bringing their total to over 40, two of whom are full-time apprentices. As a fully-fledged petrolhead wandering around their workshop I’ve a feeling these two young technicians mightn’t realise just how lucky they are to be able to work in such incredible surroundings, let alone on some of the vehicles that pass through.
Levels of discretion are also exemplary, with not a single customer car registration plate visible during the press visit. I suspect there were more than a handful of Jersey registered machines lurking, however, and as a local Ferrari owner why wouldn’t you send yours there to be looked after? They’re perfectly positioned to serve the Channel Islands, being between the Poole and Portsmouth harbours and just a short journey from Southampton airport. As you might expect, taking care of collection and delivery to anywhere in the world isn’t an issue – whether that’s a vehicle or a client heading over to collect their steed. With no local Ferrari-sanctioned dealership or service centre, but a lot of people who know, a visit to Meridien Modena seems like the only sensible course of action for those fortunate enough to possess one of these incredible examples of Italian engineering.