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Monday 11th March 2013


LAMBO IN A SPOT OF BOTHER? TELL ME I'M WRONG

Is Lamborghini dangerously exposed as the age of the hypercar dawns? Harris fears so but tell him he's wrong


The most myopic side of the motoring media is the constant battle between rival magazine and web brands to either adhere to, or break, things called embargos. These are the strict publishing agreements set by car manufacturers to ensure fair play amongst us children. The problem is they almost never work.

Lambo's big surprise was blown ahead of show
Lambo's big surprise was blown ahead of show
The other Sunday I woke early and trundled off to the shop and did something I hadn't done in months - bought the Sunday Times. I flicked through the motoring section later that day and spied some god-awful kit car splatted in the opening pages and honestly didn't pay it a second glance.

What I had ignored was one of the great embargo-busts of recent times: a new macro-volume Lamborghini which had been kept ultra-secret and wasn't supposed to be seen until Monday night at the VW group evening at the Geneva Motor Show.

Raging Bull
Lamborghini was more than a little angry. Although it might be suggested that this ire would be better directed at the individual who sanctioned the use of the Lamborghini badge on what we now know as the Veneno. For those who haven't seen it, imagine a Transformer toy which has been run over by a car, and you will understand why it is a memorable shape for all the wrong reasons.

Has Lambo lost its way? Chris fears so
Has Lambo lost its way? Chris fears so
Right now, I don't understand Lamborghini. It used to be the jewel of supercar valley, but it seems to be losing its way.

If Lamborghini has three paying punters who want to spend three million on one of a trio of carbon-bodied specials then I am the last person to begrudge it that revenue. These small volume projects will be increasingly important in this segment, but in the time we've had the Sesto Elemento, the Aventador J and now the Venereal, the Gallardo has been treated to a new front bumper. How they sell any new versions is testament to the skill of the sales staff and nothing more.

A hard sell
It is alleged that somewhere there are two hangars full of unsold Gallardos, and this might explain why Lambo wants to clear the decks before releasing a replacement - but the car is now 10 years old, and I haven't seen many spy shots of a new version trundling around Northern Italy. The Gallardo is a contemporary of the Ferrari 360 - not even the 430, but the 360.

So what is going on at Lamborghini?

Roadster should boost strong Aventador sales
Roadster should boost strong Aventador sales
Well, it is flogging a heap of Aventadors - 920 last year, a number which will surely rise with the introduction of the Roadster in 2013. But the 458 sector appears to be off-limits for Lambo just now, which we have to assume is a positioning exercise to make space for others within the VW group. Audi has revised the R8 and given it a proper self-shifting gearbox and the rumoured Porsche 960 project is being denied so vehemently one has to assume it's now running at full pace. Has the VW supervisory board decreed that from now on the Lambo experience begins north of 200K?

I'm not sure. The Geneva show has a tendency to force those in attendance to view the exhibitor's financial health according to how they are projected within the microcosm of those few halls - something I always try to avoid. But seeing the LaFerrari (I know, don't say it) and the P1 and then the Veneno was shattering for this life-long Lambo obsessive. By all means pander to the simple-is-best image, but was it really wise to unveil this spudder just after McLaren and Ferrari had taken the supercar rule book and issued a completely new version on an iPad 3? Possibly not.

Gallardo has been left out in the cold
Gallardo has been left out in the cold
In your face
Is it really the case that Lamborghini is struggling for funds? VW has the deepest pockets of anyone, so surely it sees the value in ensuring that Lamborghini is permanently in Ferrari's face? Just one more question on this theme: is VW actually being both cautious and clever, waiting for the world to sort itself out before giving us a new small sports car? Doesn't look like it for now.

Contracting markets and oversupply can quickly cripple a company of Lamborghini's size, but even so Ferrari must be ecstatic that the current situation is the outcome of easily the biggest threat to its market leadership since Enzo left Alfa Romeo. 10 years ago Lamborghini had the cash and the product to make life very, very difficult for Maranello - almost all of that momentum appears to have been squandered.

I agree with those who say Lamborghinis shouldn't be defined by technology - they should be outrageous to behold and to drive. However, as core values, these become problematic when you are surrounded by equally outlandish machinery from every side. The pressure of asserting its Lambo-ness in a market bursting with amazing machinery has lead to the hyperbolic brain-fart that is Veneno: 'Do something, do anything, just get us some bloody attention at that motor show!'

Lamborghini's history has had its moments
Lamborghini's history has had its moments
I suppose it partly worked. It also served to remind us how stunning the Aventador still is, especially in the red of the Geneva show car. It also proved that Ferrari is much, much better at making people keep its secrets, because no one really knew anything about LaFerrari until the covers came off.

Lamborghini will always be in my blood, but we believers need some action, and soon.

There is, of course, the outside possibility that I am getting this all wrong.

Author: Chris Harris