PH MEETS LAMBORGHINI BOSS
We put your questions to Stephan Winkelmann, Lamborghini's president and CEO
This is a very comprehensive question! We have a clear road map to reduce emissions by 35 per cent by 2015, while maintaining the DNA of Lamborghini cars - it's very important that you don't dilute the nature of the cars.
The issue is that nobody knows what is going to happen, in terms of legislation, in the years to come. So the road map is fixed, but every year we will refocus and recap, to see if our plans our still valid.
In terms of engines and transmissions, not everything is possible, but we will stick to the V12 in the future - this is something that's very important for us. Basically it's about reducing friction, and it's about reducing weight - we strongly believe that the power-to-weight ratio is the big issue for tomorrow. That means we won't increase power too much in future, but will be working more on the reduction of weight.
Here, the key is carbon fibre - a very stiff and light material. This will help us, but it's very cost-intensive, although it serves two purposes - improving handling on the one hand, reducing emissions on the other.
I don't know too much about what the others are doing, and I don't pay too much attention to statements and quotes as they seem to change constantly. Also, Lamborghini doesn't talk too much about the future - when we present something we want it to be completely new and astonishing.
But we have a clear view - carbon fibre, in the future, will be a big player for Lamborghini.
How worried is Lamborghini about McLaren's plans, if at all?
Before the global economic crisis, every new model stepping in, or every new manufacturer, was just an increase in the segment, so there was no downturn of one brand.
Now it's a bit different. On the other hand it will be tough for everybody who wants to step in to find partners. I think the UK could be a stronghold for McLaren because it's a British brand, but for other regions... we shall see...
We think that our own strategy is a winning one. We have a history, and we have the backing of a big group (VW), which helps us to improve quality on the one hand, and to have synergies and economies of scale on the other.
If I have an oil filter or an air filter, and I buy 2000 units a year, I have one price and one level of quality. If I buy hundreds of thousands of units a year, I'll get a lower price and a better quality.
We only do things which are not visible or touchable, and which don't affect the core of the product.
A big group can also help with industrial processes, and to invest money where you need it the most.
If you want to survive as a small-scale operation, you have to focus on synergies, but also on uncompromising, extreme cars.
Are there any plans to expand to a three-tier model range?
We are sticking to the two models. Two years ago we explored, with the Estoque concept, the possibility of a model completely outside the super sports car segment, and remember we had the LM and the Espada in the past, but the success of Lamborghini today is to focus on the key values of the brand.
So over the years we have always had a distinctive design even for those people who aren't into supercars - they might not know the models, but they still recognise the brand.
Having said that, there is space for a model outside of this, but nothing is planned at the moment.
When I stepped into Lamborghini, the ratio between E Gear and manual gearbox was 80:20. Now it is nearly 100 per cent E Gear. This is making us think hard about the future of the manual gearbox, but we will see.
Can PHer RallyRider borrow a Super Trofeo for the weekend?
No [Stephan actually lols at this point]. But they can buy one...
Would Lamborghini build a super sports car with a diesel engine?
Everything we do has to be consistent with the past and present of the brand. It also has to be economically valid. So if we were to go for a diesel engine, we would still need a petrol engine as well, because diesel doesn't sell in the US, Asia or the Middle East. So it's a no.
Well of course there are different forms of hybrid and if something like this helps us to reduce the emissions to the extent we talked about before without changing the driving experience - on the contrary giving a boost in performance - that would be good.
So a Kers-style mild hybrid is an option, but how about a 'range-extender', a largely electric car with a small petrol motor? Would that be a step too far?
Not in the next generation of cars, but with the knowledge of today, we cannot judge what is going to happen tomorrow...
Is Lamborghini still all about outrageous, over-the-top designs like the Countach and Diablo, or is the core of Lamborghini more restrained these days?
It's still uncompromising, extreme and Italian because it's a 100 per cent Italian brand, but the way we look at our cars has changed a little.
Before, super sports cars were all about top speed, acceleration and handling, in that order. Now we think that, in the future, number one is handling, number two is acceleration and number three is top speed.
It's much more about the driving experience and the handling rather than just the top speed.
Back at the end of 2008 I stated that there is a clear sign that even all the luxury brands can be affected, that we are not immune to the crisis. Unfortunately that was true and is still true. There is still money, but there is a block on spending.
So people's attitudes and buying habits have changed, but this isn't bringing us to our knees - we think that the strategy for the medium and the long term is the right one and that we are investing even more than in the past in the future of our company.
In numbers that means we invested 33 per cent more in R & D in 2009 than in 2008, and that's key for us. Our cars are about the fulfilment of a dream - if you don't match the expectations of your customers, then you are out of business.
How important is China for you?
Just two years ago I thought the market was still immature for super sports cars, that the Chinese still preferred sedans and chauffeur-driven cars, but this year there has been a boom in super sports cars in China. In fact in China this year we have sold as many cars in the first six months of 2010 as we did in the whole of 2009.
This is an incredibly fast change of mindset. Obviously this is very positive for us in these times of crisis, and we hope that the trend there continues.
We are also prepared for changing markets and changing tastes - we have to have a presence in as many places as possible to get the volumes we need to be profitable. But with luxury goods, unlike most other commodities, roots and history are important. So we will remain Italian, and we will remain firmly rooted in Italy.