Ferrari's sales could suffer next year if the U.S. economy slows down as a result of the recent turbulence in financial markets, the general manager of the Italian luxury sports car maker said on Monday.

But it would likely suffer less from the dollar's weakness against the euro because the maker of such cars as the Scaglietti and the 599 GTB Fiorano had hedged itself, Amedeo Felisa told the Reuters Auto Summit in Frankfurt.

Until now it is a tough condition but we are still managing to make money, he said. We can reduce the effect of a depreciation of the dollar.

Ferrari had hedged 80 percent of its exposure to the dollar for 2008 and about a third for 2009, he said.

About 40 percent of its sales are tied to the dollar.


At the Reuters Auto Summit in Detroit, top car industry investors gave a grim forecast for the U.S. market next year, with one of them predicting a possible slump in sales to levels not seen in 15 years.

The United States is Ferrari's single biggest market.

What will happen in the U.S. next year will depend on what will happen in the next three months, said Felisa. We are looking very carefully at what is happening in the showrooms (and) until now nothing has changed.

If we look back to three months ago, we expect our normal increase. The idea is to continue to grow, he said.

If you look to our trend we are increasing volumes more or less by 5-10 percent every year, he said, adding that Ferrari expected to sell more than 6,000 cars this year against 5,671 in 2006.

Last August, Ferrari head Jean Todt forecast a profit margin of 15 percent this year against 12.6 percent margin last year.

In the first nine months of the year, Ferrari had a trading profit of 157 million euros on sales of 1.2 billion euros.

Felisa said strong demand for Ferrari cars in growing markets in eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia could help offset a drop in the United States and Europe.

Although Ferrari's customers belonged to a wealthy elite whose spending habits are not determined by the state of the economy, they would likely resist the urge to buy the latest model from the Formula One champion if times got tough, he said.

If it is only a financial crisis, then probably we will not be affected. If it changes to an economic crisis, then for sure we expect to be affected, Felisa said.

During hard times, buying a new Ferrari could be seen as bad form, he said.

It is not ethical for you to buy a $300,000 car when things are not going well all over the world, he said.

Fiat is majority owned by Italian industrial group Fiat.

(Reporting by Gilles Castonguay; editing by Paul Bolding)