Briefly in Milan for the furniture fair, I was chatting at a Poltrona Frau dinner to Luca di Montezemolo, whose private equity firm Charme owns Frau, when he announced happily that this weekend he and Diego Della Valle, chairman of Tod’s (along with Gianni Punzo, Bank Intesa Sanpaolo, Generali and the French rail company SNCF), will become the proud parents of yet another luxury item: Europe’s first fully privately-owned high speed luxury train
Dubbed Italo, owned by NTV (Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori) and linking Naples and Venice to Rome, Florence and Turin among other cities, the trains are less brand extension than empire extension: they will be Ferrari red (Mr Montezemolo is also chairman of Ferrari, though there is no official relationship between the two companies), with leather interiors by Poltrona Frau.
In other words, they will effectively leverage brand relationships and the image of the owners, and say to anyone who pays attention to such things: ride like an industrialist!
For those not seduced by the above, they will also have TVs, WiFi, and a movie theatre.
“We put in a lot of money, personally,” said Mr di Montezemolo; the total cost reported by Guy Dinmore in the FT as €1bn when the trains were first unveiled last year (Mr di Montezemolo, Mr Della Valle, and Mr Punzo together own 33.5 per cent).
Still, Mr di Montezemolo seemed pretty chuffed at the idea of restoring the glamour to rail travel. “City centre to city centre, you can work in a nice chair, not bumping elbows with anyone,” he said. “It’s great, no?!”
So here’s the bet: efficiency+luxury+personal brand = consumers. Think it will pay off?
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