Ferrari, the luxury sports car arm of Italy's Fiat Group, is stepping up its drive into non-automotive activities by developing its own financial services and insurance operations.

The carmaker, which also owns Maserati, has signed a deal with Marsh & McLennan, the US insurance and consulting group, to offer specialist insurance.

Andrea Zappia, Ferrari commercial director, told the Financial Times that the company was also launching retail financial services backed by Fidis, the financial arm of Fiat, and expanding its franchised accessories business.

Mr Zappia predicted that development of such services could contribute about 30 per cent of Ferrari's turnover in the long term.

"The car will remain the core of the business, but we will build new growth areas around it," he said.

Under the insurance initiative, Ferrari will receive royalties from Marsh & McLennan on insurance taken up by car buyers. The US broker, which last year acquired UK rival Sedgwick, won the Ferrari business following an 18-month review of insurance opportunities by the Italian carmaker.

The programme is to be launched initially in Germany, Switzerland and Italy, partly reflecting the difficulty some drivers have in finding insurance for high-performance cars in such countries.

Speaking at Ferrari's Maranello headquarters near Bologna, Mr Zappia added that profits from non-automotive activities were roughly double those achieved in carmaking.

The move into specialist financial services and insurance follows rapid growth in the company's Swiss-based licensed merchandise business, dubbed "Ferrari Idea". Mr Zappia claimed sales of merchandise would double over the next five years.

Demand for Ferrari merchandise has increased following the success of the brand's Formula One team.

Ferrari's non-automotive strategy has been drawn up to increase turnover and profitability without sharply increasing vehicle output.

Mr Zappia said production of Ferraris would not increase beyond 4,000 a year.

Last year, the company sold 3,775 Ferraris and 1,538 Maseratis, while underlying operating profits doubled to L45.5bn (E23.5m, $22.5m). Sales rose from L1,195bn to L1,467bn.

Senior executives said the service initiatives would coincide with an expansion of the Maserati brand.

Ferrari plans to increase output of Maserati cars from some 2,000 this year to 10,000 annually by 2005.