Stefano Domenicali: PH Meets

After all the alpha male swagger of the Winkelmann era at Lamborghini Stefano Domenicali is now stepping up to lead the brand into a new era of expansion and SUV production. He's been in the job nearly a year now but his presence on the launch of the Aventador S gave us a chance to get to know him a little and find out his plans. Given how wet the track was it seemed a more productive use of the time...

Different men with very different mindsets
Different men with very different mindsets
A familiar face from his days as Ferrari's F1 team principal his TV personality was affable but reserved, willing to chip in to TV grid walks but seemingly happier with the headphones on and staring at the monitors. First impressions in his Lamborghini role are a more outgoing personality than you might have expected, there being a spring to his step and plenty of extrovert Italian mannerisms to liven up his business-school honed address ahead of the Aventador presentation.

His 25 years at Maranello aren't shrugged off easily and he clearly maintains a great deal of respect for his former employers. Not that he isn't energised by the opportunities at Lamborghini... So how is he going to make his mark?

"I think the ambition we have is to make sure we put the base and foundation for a different dimension of Lamborghini," he says, referencing the presentation made shortly before in which he announced the opening of a new production line for building the Urus SUV. This doubles both Lamborghini's floorspace and its output, the circa 3,500 Aventadors and Huracans it currently builds (1,000 or so of those Aventadors) to be matched by a similar number of Urus 4x4s. Still less than Ferrari's total output but, relatively speaking, a huge moment for Lamborghini. The new line opens in April and brings with it new levels of connectivity and digitalisation, reflecting the brand's evolution from 'craft' built supercars into a modern car manufacturer under the umbrella of Audi and the wider VW group. Mock Winkelmann's sense of ego as much as you like; in his tenure Lamborghini has enjoyed six years of steady growth and turnover has doubled to over 900m euros since 2012.

"Our duty is to make sure the V12 stays alive"
"Our duty is to make sure the V12 stays alive"
Domenicali inherits a strong business at an exciting time but his personal approach would seem to be different. "Normally I use 'we' because I do not have an ego," he says when talking about the business - interesting comment given he's speaking in front of a banner with the Aventador S's launch motto of ... Dare Your Ego. "But I have a responsibility to make sure the company is thinking in a way that is the right approach for the future."

A future he sees as bright. "I am very happy and optimistic because of Urus and I feel that Lamborghini 2020 will be more and more protagonist in this environment. There are a lot of companies coming with products that can be, let's say, very attractive but with the humble approach and knowing what is going on around us I think we can have a great future."

Humble approach? Not a description likely to be applied to the Urus when it finally makes its production debut, even if Domenicali confirms it will be built on shared group architecture in the form of the flexible MLB platform beneath the equivalent Q7 and Bentley Bentayga. "We need to maximise the benefits of being part of the group but we need to be unique with our product," he says, the general understanding being the Urus will benefit from (relatively) downsized turbo engines and hybrid assistance. These already exist within the group of course, including the latest 4.0-litre turbo V8s from Audi and Porsche plus the hybrid expertise gained from the latter's electric assisted Panameras and Cayennes. Diesel Lamborghinis? That may be a step too far but we'll have to see.  

Urus set to double Lambo production
Urus set to double Lambo production
In such an environment is there still a future for 6.5-litre naturally aspirated V12s? "Our duty is to make sure the V12 stays alive as long as possible," he says, Italian passion coming to the fore. "We are more or less producing 1,000 cars per year with V12 and I do believe in the future this niche will always be present. If you think when the music changed from vinyl to MP3 the space for vinyl was always there and now it is getting back again. Our customers say please do not touch the V12 and maybe in the future we will be unique with this."

Will they be allowed to though in a world where emissions are so tightly legislated? "This is something to throw the ball in the air and see of course. In the future there will be more and more attention to the emissions there's no doubt," he admits. "We need to cope with that, knowing the world will be different from country to country in this respect. We have done a big effort to minimise that effect but, for sure, that will be an element that will define when it is the last moment. This has to be the spirit of our brand! When you hear the V12 this is something that gives emotion I can say is unique."

This reflects Domenicali's belief that a sense of theatre and spectacle is at the heart of the Lamborghini experience. Aged 52 it's the Miura that, to him, represents the brand's core values; he also cites the Countach as a game-changer. While still being respectful of his former employer's competitor products.

A good start; bring on that Huracan Performante!
A good start; bring on that Huracan Performante!
No doubt, the Urus will be keenly observed by both the industry and enthusiasts. But it's good to know Domenicali still views noisy supercars as the core business. "In Geneva you will see something very important related to Huracan showing the centre of attention being the supersport car for us," he grins. That'll be the widely tipped Performante version we've been hearing about then, complete with rumours of a sub-seven 'ring lap to prove that modern Lamborghinis have the dynamics to back up the looks.

Lamborghini's future path was, of course, laid out within the Winkelmann era but it's clear Domenicali's approach is, perhaps, more 'serious' and collaborative. Without ignoring the passion the brand has always traded on so heavily. For all his flamboyance Winkelmann was very much a company man; Domenicali is both more Italian but also realistic about the brand's future as part of a bigger group. "We are proud to be Italian, not necessarily with a passport but with attitude."


P.H. O'meter

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Comments (18) Join the discussion on the forum

  • The Crack Fox 08 Feb 2017

    Really interesting, thanks Dan smile

  • Diesel Meister 08 Feb 2017

    The Crack Fox said:
    Really interesting, thanks Dan smile
    +1 yes

    ETA: As an aside I always found him one of the least grating team principles in F1 - as described he was affable and approachable with a dry sense of humour, but still carried an air of purpose / professionalism. Just a nice bloke. Shame the team seems to be struggling so much as the tristar definitely needs meaningful competition to make F1 more interesting. Difficult one as it seems no matter what the sport tries to do to level the field thus far, one team usually steals a big march (often the team that has the genius / time / money to find and exploit every innovation / loophole going and gets the lion's share of the luck to boot).

    Long may Lambo continue to make things that are inherently Lambo: noisy, fast, low-slung, striking to look at (and good to drive too although I've not yet had the opportunity - not likely either!).

    Edited by Diesel Meister on Wednesday 8th February 14:54

  • parabolica 08 Feb 2017

    Interesting read. I've always liked Domenicali; however whenever he was interviewed in F1 I always expected to hear Eric Morecambe's voice hehe

  • jamespink 08 Feb 2017

    Clearly a serious guy. The Urus has a strange appeal to me... It will certainly make any other 4x4 look frumpy!

  • 99dndd 08 Feb 2017

    A Lamborghini SUV, time to grab 2 of each animal and head for the ark...

    Good interview, always seemed like a nice chap when he was Ferrari boss.

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