A Ride Across Opportunities

by Marc Almagro
Photography by Chino Sardea and Tracey Nguyen
18 Jan 2022

While visiting his favorite local spots, an automotive executive discovers a harmony of contrasts.

“Let me show you around Singapore,” says Dieter Knechtel as he heads towards the parking lot. The prospect of a drive that may uncover a hideaway or two is too tempting to pass up, but so is the idea of zipping around town in a head-turning Ferrari Portofino M.

“I find many places in Singapore that show the identities of this unique island,” says Knechtel, President Far East & Middle East of Ferrari. He has been living in Asia for the past 18 years, nearly seven of which were in Singapore—but he remains in awe of his surroundings. From abundant nature to stunning man-made environment, from deeply historical to resolutely modern, from respecting tradition to embracing change, Knechtel is keenly aware of the contrasts that make Singapore a vibrant and unique city. 

“Let’s go to Hort Park,” Knechtel offers. A 22-hectare park in the southwestern part of Singapore, it is a favorite among gardeners for its range of activities and spaces dedicated to tending to plants. But casual strollers are also welcome. “This is where one can unwind and enjoy the fresh morning air,” Knechtel says, “You can find me here on weekends, with my wife and children, spending our precious quality time together.”   

The next stop is Sentosa Island, off the southern coast of Singapore. A former British **** fortress, Sentosa contains as much history as nature reserves and luxury developments, including a marina club, integrated resort, and exclusive residential enclave.

“Without history there won’t be a present and a future,” Knechtel observes as he takes in the views from a hilltop. “Growing up in Vienna, which is rich in history, I have a fair interest in the subject. I find Sentosa a significant part of Singapore where one can learn about the past—the heritage buildings, the fort, and the battery that are still standing proudly are reminders of what this small nation had gone through, a testament to what it has withstood as it moves into the future.” 

(Related: Ferrari personalization program)


Resulting from Contrasts

The conversation veered towards the Ferrari Portofino M, itself the result of contrasts, such as traditional craftsmanship and technological innovation. “The first Portofino model was first unveiled in 2017, replacing the California,” Knechtel recalls. “Meanwhile, the Portofino M debuted in 2020 as a follow up to the successful GT convertible model.” The letter M in its name stands for modificata, which is Italian for ‘modified’, he adds. “In Ferrari tradition, models with the M suffix refer to those that have received mid-life enhancements. Other examples of this include the 512M, 575M and 456M.” 

Knechtel explains that the Portofino and the Portofino M have other notable differences. On top of a more powerful engine (20 bhp more), the Portofino M features a new 8-speed dual-clutch transmission, an upgrade from the previous 7-speed. It also has a five-position manettino, which allows the driver to choose between five different handling characteristics at a twist of a control dial on the steering wheel.

“The manettino features a race mode,” Knechtel beams, “that works in tandem with the Ferrari Dynamic Enhancer. Through this, one can be sure to maximize the driving pleasure and potential of the Portofino M.” In its exterior, the Portofino M shows marked improvement over the Portofino, with enhanced aerodynamic touches most prominently in the front bumper and the flanks.

The drive continued westward towards Harbour Front where Vivo City is situated. “Singapore is a very modern city with many tall, prominent buildings, but if you look at photos of old Singapore, and compare them with those of the CBD right now, it will amaze you just how far this country has come.”

Knechtel drives up to the Harbour Front area. “Here you have modern office buildings and the Vivo City mall placed next to each other in unity. Architecturally, Vivo City is very modern and timeless—just like this Portofino M, if I may say so myself. It is also one of the shopping centers that I frequent as it has everything under one roof. And the waterfront is a nice place to watch the sunset.


Staying In Touch

Although international and large-scale events remain on hold, Ferrari manages to multiply personal client experiences. They hosted clients recently to a private viewing of the full Ferrari range at the showroom.

“We adapted either by launching our cars digitally, as we did for the 296 GTB in June, or organizing small intimate engagements with our clients—all the while observing strict social distancing protocols set out by the government,” he shares. “The positive side of these one-to-one events is that we get to spend more time with each client and they get to spend more time with each car.

“The government has put in place several measures to safeguard the country and its people, and in my opinion, it is best that everybody adheres to it for the greater good,” Knechtel says.  

The staff of the Singapore-based Ferrari regional office are currently working from home. “Thankfully, technology is widely available, so staying in touch and connected is never an issue,” he says. “Communication with Maranello and our dealers within this region is as good as before, with channels constantly open to support each other.

“Best of all, everyone remains positive, and this attitude keeps everyone alive and driven to move the business forward.”