Lamborghini’s CEO talks tech, record sales, and Lambo’s first luxury SUV

Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann
2015 was a great year for Lamborghini. The supercar company hit all time high sales, delivering 3,245 cars to customers, most of which were the new V10 Huracán. Since we’re used to major automakers touting numbers substantially larger, this one might not seem so big, but for a comparatively small car manufacturer — who currently just makes two sports cars — this is tremendous.

This is also the year it released the Aventador SuperVeloce coupe and spyder, the baddest bulls the company has made to date, already sold out and primed to hit the streets this year. On the track, Lamborghini’s Super Trofeo one-make series is going strong, and a GT3 Huracán is set to field the grid in this year’s 24 hours of Daytona as soon as next week.

So what’s next? I sat down with Lamborghini CEO Stephan Winkelmann during the lackluster Detroit Auto Show to discuss how Lamborghini plans to go beyond the track and off roads with the Urus SUV, how technology is a part of the supercar landscape, and what surprises the automaker has in store for the Geneva auto show.

Digital Trends: We talk a lot about the Urus because were all excited about a third product in the lineup. We know it’s important for the company to have a sports SUV from a business perspective, but how will the company approach making an SUV a true Lamborghini?

Stephan Winkelmann: The approach is pretty easy for us because we live it every day. Also the history of Lamborghini is not only super sports cars. The company started in 1963 with GT cars, we had 2+2s like the Espada, and we had the first luxury SUV with the LM002.

I think there is an expertise and the brand is ready: We feel it; we see it; we perceive it; and we get the feedback from customers and non-customers. It has to be the most powerful and fastest SUV, and it has to have off road capabilities. It doesn’t need to be a pure off-roader as this is not the mission.

It has to look like a Lamborghini, this is granted, and you will immediately recognize that this can be nothing else. This is one of the cornerstones of our design approach — [our cars] always have to be very different from each other, but have to be immediately recognizable. We also did clinics all over the place – U.S., Middle East, Europe, Asia — and we had tremendous feedback based on the car that we showed in Beijing in 2012. Therefore, we are pretty confident that there will be no hiccups in the presentation.

Lately, it seems were talking more about the technology we put into the cars more than the cars themselves, particularly at this year’s CES in Las Vegas. What technology trends are Lamborghini focused on and what is on the horizon for the company?

It’s clear that the Urus has to be a car with infotainment and connectivity. This is what we’re looking forward to. The new generation of car drivers are not demanding it; they’re expecting it. It’s a given. Our cars today are mainly focused on the driving, so if you take a Lamborghini out, it’s because you want to drive the car. The journey is more important than the place you’re going to.

With an SUV, which is really going to be a daily driven car, it’s going to be different: You have to have the DNA of Lamborghini but you also have to match this with daily usability, and part of this daily usability is what you mention now. Also, the next generation of super sports cars, there will be more [connectivity].

What about autonomous driving technology? Does any of that have a place in Lamborghinis? Cars that are meant to be driven?

When we speak of this, it’s about driving assistance. This what is OK and this is what we’ll have inside the Urus. As you said, these cars are meant to be driven and there are no plans at the time to do anything else.

With the success of the Huracán and the record number of units sold in the year (not to mention its variants) plus the Urus coming soon, do we have something to look forward to in the future from Lamborghini?

“If you take a Lamborghini out, it’s because you want to drive the car – the journey is more important than the place you’re going to.”

We have big news we’re going to reveal in Geneva, which will be the new one-off. It’s going to be a coupe and also a roadster. All cars are already sold: 20 coupes and 20 roadsters. The name will be “Centenario” as a tribute to the 100th birthday of Ferruccio Lamborghini. Myself and my colleagues showed the car to selected customers at Pebble Beach, and then all around the world, selling out the car in a very short period of time. So, we decided also to do the roadster, which is sold as well. The car that we will showcase [At the Geneva Auto Show] will be fully carbon fiber.

Outside of Super Trofeo, are there any other motorsport initiatives in the works or being considered?

Lamborghini has never been big in motorsport, and we re-started [our involvement] in the worst possible moment, but it was the only moment available to us. It was 2009, when the economy was the worst, but we had the development of the facelift of the Gallardo done, so we started with the Super Trofeo one-make race series — first in Europe, then in Asia, and then a couple years ago, also in the U.S. This is now rock solid. We said that the highest thing we’re going to do is GT3, and now we are already in 24-hour races, so this is a big stretch for us because the company has to stay small and very flexible. Therefore I think at the time being, these motorsport activities — which include also the driving experiences where customers learn how to drive our cars safely, are it for the time being. There are no plans on top of this.

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