The Ferrari 812 Superfast is presented during the press day at the Geneva Motor Show. The Motor Show will open its gates to the public from March 9 to 19 March. Cyril Zingaro/Keystone via AP

Geneva - Ferrari unveiled the speediest production car in its history, underscoring its reputation for uncompromising performance even as the Italian manufacturer pushes the limit of how many cars it can sell without losing its allure.

The 812 Superfast debuted at the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday with a front-mid-mounted 6496cc V12, 588kW engine that accelerates to 100km/h in as little as 2.9 seconds, making it Ferrari’s most powerful production model ever. Priced at $308 000 (R4 million) in Italy, the new flagship is already sold out for 2017, Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

“We have to make sure the demand is there, and we always have to supply less than the demand,” he said.

Having promised its shareholders a boost in sales and profit following its 2015 initial public offering, Ferrari faces the challenge of selling more cars without diluting its air of exclusivity. Marchionne, likely to reach his target of selling 9 000 cars annually by 2019, is pushing high-performers like the 812 Superfast to maintain earnings momentum, even as he widens the lineup.

Keeping supply capped by model is the key to protecting Ferrari’s reputation. "We need a much wider range of products than we’ve got today,” in order to increase volumes beyond 9 000 vehicles, the CEO said.

There’s still a “phenomenal amount of space” to expand Ferrari’s range without massive investment in new technology and platforms, Marchionne has said in the past. Such low-risk expansion is critical for the boutique manufacturer as it seeks to compete without the backing of a bigger industry player.

Ferrari Family

In an effort to reach a wider audience, Ferrari unveiled a four-seater GTC4Lusso “family car” in Geneva last year and may consider a five-door version to draw buyers seeking more practicality and comfort, said Ian Fletcher, an analyst at IHS Automotive in London.

"There is for sure demand for that kind of hatchback, which could generate high margins using an existing platform,” Fletcher said.

While Ferrari hasn’t yet decided whether to add a five-door model, the company’s expansion strategy is its most critical and Marchionne told reporters in Geneva he wants to reach beyond traditional sportscar customers. He reiterated that Ferrari will never make an SUV, despite growing demand for ultra-luxury all-terrain vehicles made by the likes of Bentley and Mercedes-Benz Maybach.

Still, Ferrari’s bread-and-butter models are its high-powered, hand-crafted supercars and special editions -- which these days are appearing with increasing frequency. The manufacturer sold out its $2.1 million special-edition LaFerrari Aperta last year even before its debut, and it’s rolling out 350 limited-run models of its five main lines to celebrate its 70th anniversary this year.

The 812 Superfast, which replaces the F12 Berlinetta, can exceed 340km/h. Borrowing from the carmaker’s Formula 1 designs, it’s aimed squarely at a core audience of race-car aficionados. The new model has flaps in the underbody that suck in air when the brakes get hot. With a high fastback tail and curving wheel arches, it’s meant to evoke the 1969 Daytona while adding modern aerodynamic lines.

Spun off from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 2015, Ferrari posted record profit last year and plans to increase earnings by at least 8 percent this year. The company previously limited production to 7 000 annually to protect its exotic allure and now expects to sell about 8 400 vehicles this year after 8 014 in 2016.

Ferrari is on its way to post over 1 billion euros in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization this year, Marchionne said. The company, which has a target to make at least 950 million euros in adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, plans to reach its financial goals by “selling an adequate number of cars with a sufficiently high margin.”