On Tuesday February 12, just two days before Valentine’s Day in the United States, a press release was issued announcing Genii Capital Group had taken an interest in RUF Automobile GmbH (Click Here to download a PDF of the actual press release). Genii’s biggest connection to the automotive world thus far has been their ownership and management of the Lotus Formula 1 team headed by French engineer Eric Boullier. Luxembourg-based Genii Capital’s founding boardmember, Gerard Lopez, is a certifiable gearhead and personal friend/customer of Alois Ruf. Lopez has been named as the Chairman of the Board in a non-executive role at RUF.
What does this mean to the future of RUF?
Certainly some adjustments will be made, and possibly some growing pains experienced. After all, it is a company with fairly traditional family roots that was put on the world map with a bang in the form of a little yellow car with an insatiable love of speed and a man with the passion to deliver the finest Porsche-based motorcars to discerning and particular clientele around the world. Most recently however, Alois Ruf’s vision has opened up to new drive-systems with the fully electric Greenster and Stormster (Click Here to go inside the eRUF Greenster). RUF has been ripe with innovation for a while now, but constrained by their growth capability due to a number of possible factors like the availability of capital and technical innovation amongst others.
Then there’s Genii. A relatively young investment firm with a chairman in Gerard Lopez that has passions parallel to those of Alois Ruf. Genii has an impressive portfolio of companies from technology to real estate that they have helped develop, and although they are young, Lopez has been in the venture capitalist industry since 1998 as co-founder of Mangrove Capital Partners. When Genii took over Lotus F1, they were in complete shambles, but with Boullier at the helm and drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, they have slowly but surely paid their dues in the past few years and are poised to be world championship contenders this coming season. Through clever innovations like the Coanda exhaust and excellent management of powertrains and consumables after the implementation of restrictions on engines and tires in 2012, Lotus F1 is now a force to be reckoned with. Genii’s vision, strategy and accessibility to the best resources in a given industry seem to be their strongest competitive advantages.
What will be the result of the Ruf-Genii marriage?
Most immediately, there is the announcement of “something special” at the Geneva Auto Salon in March. This will likely be the final production version of the 991-based RGT-8 that nearly everyone in the Porsche world has been anticipating. An 8-cylinder 911 will finally be a reality, and according to the press release from Ruf, the engine is to be a centerpiece to identify new strategic opportunities. How? It would be not be surprising to see the V8 make its way into the CTR3 supercar, possibly turbocharged. Further in the future, it could also serve as the basis for a completely RUF designed, built and sold supercar with little to no Porsche componentry. Then there are the electric drivetrains that Alois has been championing himself. With tightening motor-vehicle emissions standards around the world, the electric systems could open up a number of great opportunities for RUF to become a bona-fide manufacturer of a full-line of vehicles from sports-cars to sedans to SUVs. Finally, there is Lotus F1′s prowess in all things automobile which will also undoubtedly serve to better existing and future RUF products.
Beyond the V8 and potential new models, there are farther reaching implications, literally. With the emergence of BRIC countries and the far-east as a heavy-hitting market that cannot be ignored, Genii’s venture-capitalist expertise in growing-out great companies (their portfolio includes quite a few tech companies that have either gone on to greatness or been acquired for their assets) will no doubt come in handy servicing this quickly expanding and increasingly sophisticated market. These customers will also help fund the previously mentioned RUF innovations and cars. Long-time Ruf fans will remember the ill-fated production facility in Bahrain that was quickly abandoned due to the nose-dive in the world economy. With Genii at the helm of the expansion and their successful turnaround of the Lotus F1 team, not to mention the recovering world economy, it is unlikely we’ll see another incident like Bahrain. There could even be another attempt at a facility placed somewhere outside of Pfaffenhausen to service the middle and far-east markets.
In 1987, from a sleepy town in Germany came the fastest car in the world. From that moment on, Alois Ruf has been hard at work for Porsche lovers who have demanded more than the factory was willing to offer. Now with Genii capital on board, it may just be time for RUF to spread its wings and fly out from under the Porsche shadow. Long live RUF Automobile GmbH!
Photos courtesy Hans-Rudolf Schulz, Sutton Images and RUF Automobile GmbH.