NEW YORK – Despite a 50% jump in first-quarter sales over last year, Ferrari North America Inc. says it won’t surpass the 1,550 units sold in 2005.

“I expect sales to level off the rest the year and wind up with the same total as 2005,” says Richard T. Sherbert, vice president-sales.

The new 599 Maranello, which replaces the 575 Maranello and bows in the U.S. in the fourth quarter, should see volume in the 200- to 250-unit range in a full year, Sherbert says.

The car will be priced about 10% higher than the $235,000 charged for the F1 version of the 575.

Capacity constraints at the factory in Italy preclude an increase in the North American allotment, Sherbert says. However, Ferrari expects to ship more vehicles to some markets this year where demand is increasing.

Of the 1,550 Ferraris sold last year in North America, 1,200 were V-8 models with an average transaction price of about $200,000. The remainder consisted of V-12s with an average price in the $250,000 range.

Most the 8-cyl. vehicles are Spyder (open-top) models. The cars are equipped with the F1A automated-manual transmission.

“Most people don’t want to shift gears in a $200,000-plus car,” Sherbert says.

All Ferrari models are gas-guzzlers and subject to the extra tax that entails. However, there have been no complaints from customers, despite skyrocketing gasoline prices, Sherbert says. Nor has Ferrari received any pressure from environmental groups, he says.

This probably is due to the fact most owners use their Ferraris sparingly, Sherbert suggests. Average mileage racked up by Ferrari vehicles is in the 3,000-5,000 mile (4,828-8,047 km) range annually. The Ferrari clientele is made up of multi-vehicle owners – some with as many as six vehicles in a household.

The finite availability produces a waiting time of 24-36 months for most customers from the time of order at one of Ferrari’s 36 North American dealerships. Ferraris are rarely available out of dealer inventory, unless another customer makes a last-minute decision not to accept delivery, Sherbert says.

“This makes the car more appealing,” he says. “We always want to make one less than the number of orders we have.”

Most customers order fully customized cars. There are 3 million different combinations buyers can select from, he says.

Dealers started taking orders for the 599 about 18 months ago – before they and customers knew the name of the car and its price.

Ferrari dealers try to sell to mostly established customers to minimize speculation for early available cars.

“We try to control speculation as much as possible,” Sherbert says.