While many believe that the slow recovery from the recent recession has affected everyone, a high-end Calgary auto dealer says that he hasn’t noticed the recession affect his wealthy customers.

Ferrari-Maserati of Alberta opened during the recession of 2008 and has now survived a second recession in less than a decade.

Carlo Galasso, dealer principal and partner says, “[The recent recession] hasn’t impacted us. Hasn’t changed my life a bit.”

Galasso says that the wealthy people he deals with in Calgary are still rich despite the recession.

“The rich people of this province have a ton of money. I know they do because they talk to me. I know they can still afford my cars and they do. That’s why we’ve grown every year,” Galasso explains.

In 2008, during the Great Recession — in which 400,000 jobs were lost in Canada in a one-year period — Galasso was just launching Ferrari-Maserati of Alberta.

The dealership is the only dealership in Alberta that sells new Ferraris and Rolls-Royce. In addition, brands such as Maserati and Alfa Romeo are offered.

Despite the economic conditions, Galasso says that he and his dealership “fought tooth and nail and… turned a profit the first year.”

Since then, the dealership grows every year and has moved to a new, purpose-built building next to the local Lamborghini and Porsche dealerships near Blackfoot Trail and Heritage Drive.

“In 2017, we introduced the Maserati Levante. That was a record year; we sold over 130 units. In 2018, we’ve set another record for Ferrari sales,” Galasso says, exemplifying how little the recession has impacted his business.

Galasso’s passion for cars is reflected in the brands his dealership carries. He describes driving a Ferrari TDF (approximate MSRP of $550,000) on a track as, “Incredible, the experience was just so visceral and so linear.”

Rolls-Royce recently launched the Cullinan — the company’s first SUV. The vehicle has a starting price of $370, 500 and Galasso says that it is his favourite luxury car right now.

Galasso, however, does not usually drive his own cars. He regularly drives a Jeep Grand Cherokee with a diesel engine in it.

When asked what he drives, he looked embarrassed and said, “I’m a ‘speedaholic’ so I try not to drive fast cars because I have no sense of turning them off.”

However, when offered an opportunity to drive on a racetrack, Galasso makes an exception to his rule and happily drives his cars.

galassocarA blue Ferrari on display in the center of the Ferrari portion of Carlo Galasso’s dealership, Ferrari-Maserati of Alberta, on Blackfoot Drive in South Calgary. Photo by Jagan Jenkins

His dealership is doing so well that he is currently planning to build his own private track near Calgary that will be available to his Ferrari customers. Currently, he uses a private track outside of Edmonton.

Despite Galasso’s experience, statistics show not all of Alberta’s wealthy have missed the impact of recent economic hardships.

Trevor Tombe, professor of economics at the University of Calgary, says that the rich in Alberta have lost a significant portion of their income on average.

In 2014, in order to get into the highest percentage point of Albertans, you need an annual income of $325,000. In 2016, that number dropped to only $279,000 — according to Tombe.

Tombe seems surprised that Ferrari-Maserati of Alberta was doing so well when tax information shows such a large drop in income for the richest Albertans.

Galasso says that the connections he has formed over the years have helped with his success.

Galasso got his start in the car industry as a manufacturer and says that at his peak, his business had over 500 different parts being produced for General Motors.

He attributes this to his friendship with former chief engineer of Chevrolet Motor Division, Zora Arkus-Duntov who passed away in 1996.

Galasso says that he made it his goal to produce parts for GM because of this relationship.

In 1993, just before the birth of his son, he bought his first Ferrari to celebrate. He then went on to buy another four over the next few years.

During this time, he developed a relationship with Remo Ferri — owner of Ferraris from Remo Ferri.

As the relationship grew, Ferri ended up offering him a partnership at Ferrari of Alberta.

Ferrari exercises significant control over Ferrari dealerships, so not just anyone can open one.

Galasso needed Ferri’s assistance to open the dealership and luckily for their friendship, he was able to.

Galasso says his motivation for working at the dealership now is, “When I see how happy an Italian car (Maserati, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari) or a British car (Rolls-Royce) makes a customer when they first pick it up, it’s a very special thing for me.”

David Safari, a Calgary man who purchased a Maserati from Galasso says that when he picked up his new car, he bought a case of champagne for all the workers at the dealership and a special bottle for Galasso.

“It was a really great job that he did. When the car arrived from Italy, they had to spend three days inspecting [it], for everything — electronic, mechanical and performance.”

Galasso is proud of the brands he represents, especially Ferrari.

He says, “You could put an old shoe on a table with Ferrari on it and some guy who loves the brand is going to want the old shoe. That’s how in love people are with the brand.”

Editor: Holly Maller | hmaller@cjournal.ca

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