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Welcome arrow Articles arrow Personality Profiles arrow Personality Profile - Herbert Adamczyk
Personality Profile - Herbert Adamczyk PDF Print E-mail


Herbert Adamczyk is managing director of Italian Motors (Sales & Service), and Auto Italia, Ferrari and Maserati distributors respectively for Hong Kong and Macau. 

Adamczyk is also involved in a joint venture in mainland China, with partners Ferrari spa and Chinese company, the Poly Group. Herbert Adamczyk is rightly referred to as ‘Mr Ferrari’ in Hong Kong, but it has been a long hard road.

Mr Herbert Adamczyk
Mr Herbert Adamczyk
“I came to Hong Kong in 1965.  I was then out on a contract with Jebsen, with what is now Porsche Centre, working with Porsche, Volkswagen and later, Audi. I came out as a Volkswagen and Porsche engineer to work as their service manager.  From 1965 to 1968 was my first contract, then I renewed for two more years, then for another five years.  I stayed with Porsche until 1975, then together with Klaus Doerr, who is well known in Macau for instigating and running the rescue cars, we started a new business called German Motors.

“It was 1975 and I was racing and our claim to fame was that we were tuning and preparing Porsches and other sports cars, some of which were Ferraris. Our business was in Sung Wong Toi Road, near to Kai Tak and anybody that went to or from the airport would have to pass our workshop.  There would always be cars parked on the pavement: Ferraris, Porsches, Maseratis.

“We then caught the eye of the Ferrari people and we were asked if we would become dealers.  At the time Maranello Concessionaires in the UK was the worldwide distributor for right-hand drive Ferraris, except South America and Japan, and we were asked to become dealers for Maranello Concessionaires.  When that system was dismantled, we were appointed Ferrari importers and distributors in 1983 and in 1991 we became the sole importers of Ferraris.”


Herbert Adamczyk was a successful racer in the Seventies, winning the prestigious Macau Guia race in 1976 and ’77.

“It was very different back then with almost a club racing atmosphere and for years, with Phil Taylor, the Macau racing scene was actually organised by the HKAA and by the Hong Kong Motor Sports Club.  There were predominantly Hong Kong drivers and the occasional driver from abroad, especially Japan.  In my racing career I was racing against a mixture of Asian, European and local drivers.  I was very proud to beat the likes of Taki, Hoshino and Hasemi; that was my claim to fame at the time.” 

Ferrari has grown rapidly in Hong Kong in recent years, but that is no accident. 

“When we took over from the previous dealer, they had a stock of three Ferraris, which we sold soon afterwards.  We then started ordering cars and the factory was quite surprised as they were then selling three to five cars a year; we sold five cars in the first six months.  So we ordered 12 cars for the following year, which was unheard of and we kept building on that.  Today, we have sold enough cars to create a vehicle parc of around 800 Ferraris in Hong Kong.

“In 1983 it was the Ferrari 308 QV we were selling, which gave way to the 328.  We were also selling the four-seater 365 and 400 models; then there was the Mondial which began in 1983.”

It was said at the time that there were certain ‘build-quality’ problems with the cars, as well as rather suspect reliability.  Adamczyk refutes that:

“They were not build-quality problems, merely characteristics of the cars.  You do not have build-quality problems with Ferrari.  You took the car that Ferrari built and if you complained to the factory that you were not happy with it, Enzo Ferrari would say that he would never sell you another car ‘because you obviously don’t deserve one’.  Yes, they did have rust; they did have problems.  But I think they were merely a reflection of the Italian way of life.  They design beautiful cars, but they are not necessarily reliable cars – then.  It’s different now of course, but then people accepted it because beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.  They would say ‘I love my car and if it sometimes breaks down, that’s just one of its characteristics’.”

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has gone on record as saying that Ferrari will never build more than 4,000 cars a year.  Mr Adamczyk elaborates:

“Four thousand cars a year was the target, simply to maintain their exclusivity and desirability.  But they had to add to that and we know that it is now actually 5,000 cars.  They have also always added to the total with limited edition models, so if they produced 249 special cars that should be added to the 4,000, and now to the 5,000.  So we can expect that in 2006 Ferrari will build something like 5,300-5,400 cars.

 Image“We wanted 80 cars this year; we got 66.  I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to convince the factory that Hong Kong is a 100-car a year market for Ferrari, and we believe it is.  Next year I have asked for 130 cars and with a bit of luck I will get 80, and if I get 80 I will be very happy.”

Maserati has a long-term plan to produce 10,000 cars a year.  How realistic is that?

“At the moment Maserati is making around 4,000 - 5,000 cars a year.  Ten thousand cars is something they hope to achieve in three or four years’ time but in order to do that, they will have to broaden their model range.  I expect there to be a third model added to the line-up; there will also be variations to the current range.  The Quattroporte will remain the mainstay of the business and there will be variations to that.”

Mainland China is clearly an important market for Ferrari but inevitably it brings with it a number of problems.

“As you know from the media, China is the ‘hot-tip’ for everybody.  The last few years have seen tremendous growth rates for imported cars; for imported luxury and performance cars, and Ferrari and Maserati are no exception.  We actually delivered the first Ferrari in China in 1993, at which time the factory said ‘You must be mad!  It’s a communist country. Who will buy the epitome of decadence?’ 

“We did though and every year we sold half a dozen cars and finally Ferrari began to wake up to the fact that China is the last bastion in the world’s market place where growth can be anticipated.

“Now, Mr Montezemolo is very bullish on China and as a result we have undergone a substantial reconstruction of our set-up in China, in that from us being the sole importer and distributor, we have now become a 30 per cent shareholder in something that is much, much larger, a joint venture with Ferrari and the Poly Group which is one of the major state-owned trading conglomerates in China.  We have 30 per cent equity, Ferrari has 40 per cent equity and it is the only place in the world where Ferrari is an equity partner in a joint-venture company.  Their philosophy is either they appoint importers or they own it.  Ferrari USA is an example: Ferrari Italy owns Ferrari USA; Ferrari Great Britain; Ferrari Deutschland; Ferrari Switzerland.  They don’t know enough about China – nobody knows enough about China – but considering that we have been there since 1993 the logical step was to build us into their system.

“To build the infrastructure in China for Ferrari and Maserati requires much greater investment.  Not only that, but it requires a commitment from the factory to supply the cars.  It would be no use for us, as an importer, to build an infrastructure that is ready to sell, say, 200 Ferraris and then for Ferrari to say, maybe we can give you 50 in which case the business concept simply would not work.  By having Ferrari in the fold, by having them actually involved as a partner in the business, the numbers that can be sold in this emerging market will actually be supplied.  Or at least, they will make every effort.”

Inevitably certain problems arise with Ferraris sold in China, where the buyers are to a large extent a little unsophisticated in terms of performance cars.

“I would be wrong to say that everything goes smoothly, as it is a very difficult market to deal in.  The wealthy Chinese buyers are a different breed to Hong Kong buyers.  There is a history, a heritage in Hong Kong that deals with luxury cars and the availability of maintenance, but the Chinese buyers don’t really know what a sports car is.  The development in China went from bicycle to scooter, to motorcycle, to cheap car, to a more expensive car, to finally Rolls-Royce or Mercedes-Benz, chauffeur driven.  The only justification they could produce was that ‘I need my Rolls-Royce, to impress visitors and buyers, to demonstrate that they are dealing with a wealthy and trustworthy company’.  A Ferrari is not that; a Ferrari is something in that context which is egotistical in nature.  A buyer will not buy for the company because it is something that the company director, or entrepreneur will buy for himself.  He buys a sports car for himself but he does not really understand the concept of a sports car as he has only been used to a chauffeur driven car.  Quite often, he will not even have a driving licence, so to put these wealthy buyers into something like a Ferrari or Maserati is sometimes a very delicate situation.  He expects something out of the car that the car simply cannot deliver.

“A Hong Kong customer knows when he buys a Ferrari exactly what it represents; a Chinese customer doesn’t – yet.  That in itself brings difficulties.  We used to have what we called our ‘flying doctor’ service, where we would send our mechanic out.  This was at a time when there might be one Ferrari in Wuhan, one in Guangzhou, one somewhere else and it was not economic to have a fully-fledged workshop.  There was a hotline in Hong Kong and we might get a call from Wuhan in the morning; in the afternoon our mechanic is there with parts, with equipment.  It worked extremely well.  It was expensive but we were able to give our customers the service they demanded.”

The economic boom in China in recent years has seen the demand for Ferraris and Maseratis expand.  Is there any fear this may subside at some point?

“The cycles will be evident in China as well as the rest of the world.  China has always had double-digit growth rates in its economy every year, and each year the expectation is that must stop sometime.  But I think there is still some way to go.  Having said that, there has been  a set-back in production numbers for Chinese manufacturers; there has been something of a set-back for importation into China in 2005, over 2004, so there has been a bit of a slow down, but I think it is only a symptom of the economy pacing itself.  I believe the growth rates for the next decade will continue; maybe not at the tremendous pace that has taken place in recent years, because they had to catch up.  Maybe it will continue at a steady pace, but there will certainly continue to be growth, barring political upheavals or a world economic downturn that would affect China as much as everybody else.  This would be blips but they would not be representative of what I think will be a steady increase in vehicle purchases by customers in China.”

China becomes a full member of the WTO in 2006.  Is that an advantage to importers of luxury sports cars?

“It has been an advantage for the last five years, when the first WTO negotiations began.  China has already agreed to reduce its trade barriers which were in place, which were set by the Chinese, by way of import permits which were needed to import a car; import duty, which was as high as 130 per cent, but which from January 2006 will only be 25 per cent.  Import permits will be abolished.  So, China is opening up, which of course is something it had to do to become a member of the WTO. 

“Every year the import duties came down: they went from 130 per cent to 105, to 90, to 70-something.  This year it is 37.5 per cent; next year 25 per cent.  Every time that happens it will add impetus to the importation of cars.  So you can say that it is already happening and next year on-the-road prices for Ferraris in China will be considerably lower than in Hong Kong, where we have 100 per cent First Registration Tax (FRT).  Any right-hand drive car in Hong Kong will be much more expensive than a comparative left-hand drive car in China.”

Former Finance Secretary Antony Leung raised the FRT on luxury cars to 150 per cent in 200.  That must have created serious  problems for Mr Adamczyk.

“It was a disaster.  One hundred and fifty per cent was outrageous.  Although there was supposed to be an increase, and the trade recognised it, but 150 per cent was completely out of context.  The attitude of my customers was ‘Of course I can afford it.  Of course I can by your Ferrari, or your Porsche, or your Rolls-Royce,  but I’m not going to because I am not going to put that money in Antony Leung’s coffers’.  Our customers just walked away.  We had contracts for cars and the customers would take the car but we had to make severe concessions on price and swallow a large part of the increase in taxes.  But then, of course, our orders stopped.  We were forced to negotiate with the factory to redirect cars that were allocated to us to other markets.  That year was probably one of the worst in our business history, as indeed it was for everybody else and it’s something that we fought.  I spent many hours in the Legislative Council listening to the debates and a tremendous amount of lobbying took place and finally the government relented and reduced it to 100 per cent from 150, which was still very high.  It was still difficult to handle but it was certainly better than 150 per cent.”

Italian Motors and Auto Italia has opened an impressive new ‘3S’ facility in Ap Lei Chau, with fully equipped workshops and an eight-ca showroom.  Where to now?

“We do not have any plans for expansion in the medium term, but we now have the infrastructure that we should have in order to deal with our customers in the correct way with the products that we sell.  We now sell a total of around 120 cars a year; we have two workshops – one here in Ap Lei Chau and the old workshop near Kai Tak – and four showrooms.  We now have facilities to cater for our customers on both sides of the harbour and believe that is enough but we are always looking at additional facilities.

“It is well-known that Maserati and Alfa Romeo are merging and it may lead to us taking a closer look at Alfa Romeo.  In terms of expansion that may be the way we shall go.  I am currently having talks with Leo Wong of Kingsland Cars (the Alfa Romeo distributor).  We are putting our heads together to see if we can make something of it.”

Finally, who buys a Ferrari in Hong Kong?

Image“A Ferrari owner is a professional or entrepreneur, who are in their 30s to 40s;  either they have inherited their money, or they have made their money – most have made it.  They are people who are becoming a little more senior, but are still young at heart.  Obviously, someone who is very enthusiastic about sports cars; and enthusiastic about Ferrari and Maserati in particular.  In terms of Ferrari, it is not a question of having to educate our customers; they know what they want.  They develop the desire to own a Ferrari by having entry-level cars - they may have had a Porsche or other performance sports car – and finally they decide to go for a Ferrari.  In the case of Maserati the competition level is a little higher, but it is still a brand that, despite having a longer history than Ferrari, is a brand where brand recognition still has some way to go.

“Our mission is to convince our customers that instead of something else, they should buy a Maserati and we are gradually getting there.”

Herbert Adamczyk was talking to Jeff Heselwood

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© 2019 Jeff Heselwood. All rights reserved.
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