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June 26, 2017

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Hyper-hybrid LaFerrari may redefine green cars

GENEVA/DETROIT--Billionaire industrialist Ratan Tata pored over every inch of the new million-euro (US$1.3 million) LaFerrari on the Italian supercar maker's stand at the Geneva auto show.

Ferrari's first-ever hybrid "looks terrific," said Tata, one of India's wealthiest businessmen and a close friend of Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo.

But will he buy one?

"I don't have the money," Tata joked.

The issue is moot: every one of the 499 LaFerraris slated for production is already spoken for. Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Ferrari's parent company Fiat, says he has reserved one of them.

The LaFerrari is perhaps the most electrifying debut at this year's Geneva show, and not only because of its sleek carbon-fiber body or its top speed of more than 350 kilometers per hour (km/h).

It is one of a new breed of hyper-hybrid sports cars, combining powerful gasoline engines with electric motors.

But why would Ferrari — so famous for its prancing pony badge on thoroughbred gas-guzzling supercars — install a hybrid powertrain in a performance car?

"Two reasons," says Di Montezemolo. "The first is that we always aim to improve our driving experience. The second is that we need to meet CO2 emission standards."

The LaFerrari joins an elite fraternity that includes Volkswagen's Porsche and Formula One stalwart McLaren, which on Tuesday unveiled the production version of its new P1 sports car.

As Porsche has done with its 918 Spyder, Ferrari and McLaren have adapted advanced technologies from their motorsport programs for these exotic street-legal sports cars, notably the extensive use of carbon-fiber composites to reduce weight and increase structural strength.

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