Ferrari unveils hybrid V6 sports car to expand electrified offer

MILAN, June 24 (Reuters) - Ferrari unveiled a new plug-in hybrid car on Thursday to increase its offer of cleaner vehicles and meet changing tastes in the exclusive market for high-performance sports cars.

The new 296 GTB comes after 2019’s SF 90 Stradale, Ferrari’s first hybrid car in series-production, and 2020’s SF90 Spider. The Italian company known for its prancing horse logo and red racing cars has promised its first full electric model in 2025.

Ferrari and rivals also associated with powerful engines are wrestling with how to shift their line-ups to battery propulsion without losing the extreme performance that supports their premium pricing.

Porsche, part of the Volkswagen group, already offers a full-electric vehicle with its Taycan model, but Ferrari is ahead of its arch-rival Lamborghini, also part of Volkswagen, whose first full-electric sports car will not appear until the second half of this decade.

To drive Ferrari into the new era of electrification, the company earlier this month picked technology industry veteran Benedetto Vigna, a physics graduate who has spent the last 26 years at chipmaker STMicroelectronics, as its new chief executive.

The new 296 GTB sports car will be fitted with a 6-cylinder (V6) mid-rear turbo engine, the first for a Ferrari road car, although such engines have roots dating back to the 1950s in Ferrari racing cars.

Ferrari road cars are normally powered by V8 or more powerful - but also more polluting - V12 engines.

Still, the V6 engine, coupled with a 122 KW electric motor, can produce a massive 830 horse power for the new two-seater.

The 296 GTB is the third of three cars Ferrari has promised for this year.

It comes after the 812 Competizione and 812 Cometizione A, the two limited edition V12 models it presented in April, keeping it apace with its ambitious plan to roll out 15 new models between 2018 and 2022, including its first ever SUV, called Purosangue (Thoroughbred), expected next year. (Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari Editing by Mark Potter)