No horsing around

It’s been a rails run for the CEO of Ferrari Australasia

WHEELSTORIES MICHAEL STAHL

HERBERT Appleroth might be one of the hardest working automotive industry executives in Australia. Now 44 and CEO of Ferrari Australasia, Appleroth relocated to his native Sydney in 2014 after jointly running Ferrari in Japan and the Asia-Pacific region, shuttling constantly between the two. He implemented the brand’s changeover to factory distribution in Australia in 2013, since which time sales have almost trebled.

It was ever thus. Appleroth, who graduated university with a double major in International Management and Marketing, was one of only four chosen from 3000 candidates for an executive fast-track program, by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

Within six months of being placed at Volkswagen Australia, Appleroth, at 21, was made national dealer manager. In quick succession, he was instrumental in the relaunch of Chrysler Jeep (at 23), east coast general manager for Audi (at 24) and then got a call from then-distributor of Ferrari and Maserati, Laurie Sutton.

The trident would take him to Italy in 2005, where he became Global Marketing Director.

“That’s where the big game started …” Appleroth almost missed it, having come close to burnout at Audi distributor, Astre Automotive. “I was 24 and working 20 hours a day. I said, ‘Look, you know, I’d like to take a break. This is just too much.’ I thought I’d buy myself a boat and just cruise around for a while and just live life like I should, as a 24 year-old, not as a 50-year-old executive.

“But on the day that I left Audi, I got a call from Laurie saying, ‘Could you come and see us?’ Literally, I had my box of goodies from my office and I was driving home to start my 12 months off … We sat down and talked about Maserati. That’s where the Italian love affair started.”

Well, not quite. By 24, he had already bought his first Ferrari, an F355 GTS. You see, Appleroth might also be the Australian automotive executive who least needs to work this hard.

In 1917 his great-grandfather, Adolphus ‘Bert’ Appleroth, started selling a food product, which in 1927 was given the name Aeroplane Jelly. You may have heard of it. From that grew a food distribution company, Traders Pty Ltd, subsequently run by the next two generations of Bert Appleroths.

Bert IV would seem to have had his future mapped out. “I worked in my family business from a very young age. In the factory, I learned everything from sweeping the floors to putting bottles on a production line, to boxing. My dad put me on a very strong management plan. You learn every single operation, from the bottom up, till you can run it – then you move on to the next one, whether it’s in the warehouse, driving a truck, a forklift, or whatever.”

“I never knew that we were from a successful family. I worked, did my chores like any other kid … I think it’s got a lot to do with the parenting. If you don’t think that you’re privileged, you work hard and if you work hard then you get what you want.”

He’d wanted a Ferrari for a very long time already. “My mum, dad, grandfather, greatgrandfather, were all car nutters. I had posters of cars all around my bedroom. Then, I was playing golf with my dad and I heard, I think it was a 308. I said, ‘One day, I’m going to own a Ferrari.’ Dad said, ‘You will, if you work hard enough.’ And that’s what happened.

“I do think that the greatest advantage that I’ve been provided is that … I’ve never truly had the risk of not having a roof over my head, and that allows you to be a better person, a better worker, a better manager, because you’re not afraid to tell it how it is.”

STABLE EMPLOYMENT

Ferrari Australasia CEO Herbert Appleroth was a customer long before he was an employee. “I knew what it was like to have your car serviced, about reliability and I was lucky that it happened to be in a period when the full Montezemolo change started, the customer-first approach … And now, there’s never been a period in Ferrari’s history when it’s had the sort of product range that we have now, so we’re absolutely blessed.”