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Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali explains why 2017 will be a game-changer for the brand

Lamborghini is about to become bigger than it’s ever been since it was founded in 1963 – much bigger. The expansion will be driven by the addition of a luxurious, high-performance SUV previewed by the Urus concept at the 2012 edition of the Beijing Auto Show. Officials predict the brand will be able to sell 3,500 examples of the off-roader annually.

Annual sales of the Huracán and the Aventador will be capped at approximately 3,500 units combined to maintain exclusivity, meaning the Raging Bull’s annual output will balloon to about 7,000 cars. The company is expanding its only factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese, Italy, produce the extra units.

We sat down with company CEO Stefano Domenicali to get more insight on the upcoming SUV, and what it means for a brand known globally for building super sports cars.

Digital Trends: Let’s start with a basic question: it going to be called Urus?

Stefano Domenicali: I would say that in regard to the SUV, you will learn a lot of things in the next couple of weeks. The name is for sure Urus. Production will start in April, though the plant will initially build pre-series models. As you know, this is an entirely new process so the first few cars will be prototypes. It’s a very delicate period, which is why 2017 will be a very important year or us. Don’t underestimate the big step we’re taking.

Everything has to be perfect when the Urus lands on the market. It will be a new market, and new customers.

It’s easy just to remember the number 7,000, but we need to prepare the after-sales network and the dealers; they need to know the car. The first cars will also be used to train people. It’s a matrix of complexity that, for our dimension, is a big, big step. I believe that we have all the potential to do a fantastic job, but it’s also my duty and responsibility to keep everyone very focused. Everything has to be perfect when the car lands on the market. It will be a new market, and new customers.

DT: Lamborghini hasn’t manifested a strong interest in semi-autonomous technology – and after driving the Aventador S on a Formula 1 track I can certainly see why. Will that change with the Urus?

SD: I think so. And this type of technology can also be used for our super sports cars. The technology required for semi-autonomous driving can make you a better driver. For example, displaying a reference line on the digital instrument cluster or on the heads-up display could make you faster on the track.

But going back to the SUV, a lot of features are considered commodities today. We need to be open to that. We know that our future SUV is a model you can use every day in normal driving conditions, but it will have Lamborghini DNA so you’ll be able to push it. All of the technology, driving aids, and tech features that users have gotten accustomed to have to be part of our car.

DT: Will the Urus be able to go off-road?

SD: Yes, it will have a specific setup for ice, snow, stones, and sand. It’s similar to the Ego approach [in the Aventador S]. You will discover this soon. Maybe I’m saying too much. Anyway, that’s part of the personalization aspect of this car.

DT: How do you see the future of hybrids?

SD: I think for sure hybrids will be a part of Lamborghini. We expect our first hybrid will be the second variant of the Urus to hit the market. It’s clear that hybridization will come through the SUV.

And then, going back to the super sports cars. I do believe that we have to fulfill two things. One is to push the V12 to its maximum over the next few years. It still has potential, and that’s the wish of our customers. We have the duty to push it for as long as possible.

Lamborghini Urus
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Hybrid is something we need to consider, it’s a natural step. If you ask me when and how, I believe that in the next three or four years we won’t be ready with the right specifications. We have other ideas to keep our naturally-aspirated engine alive for the next few years, but we need to think.

I believe the right time for us to consider electrification is when – and only when – we can retain the same super sports car characteristics that we have today. Weight and center of gravity, for example. Today, I don’t see that possible in the next 10 years. However, the only way for us to prepare in case the technology is ready earlier than that is to be as flexible as possible in terms of life cycle, and to be modular. That means not having two models on two different chassis, with two different power units, and two different gearboxes. We need to become more efficient.

DT: Switching gears for a minute: Lamborghini was more involved in motorsports last year than ever before. Is this trend set to continue?

SD: Motorsports will always be a part of our company, and our involvement will remain the same in the next few years. We’re going to launch an update of the track-only Huracán soon.

If you ask me what else we can do, I would say we need to be open to other possible engagements. For sure, the first natural one would be to understand that there is a chance for us to be competitive in Le Mans’ GTE class. We haven’t made a decision, though.

We expect our first hybrid will be the second variant of the Urus to hit the market.

If I look even further, the real question is whether Lamborghini is going to become an official factory team. As you know, today we’re not. We’ve decided to basically stay as we are – a customer team – and provide a service.

And then, long-term, we need to be open and see how the sport evolves. I don’t want to confirm anything, but I don’t want to deny anything, either. I’m pretty sure that in the next five or six years there are going to be big changes. There will be a lot of discussions around the sustainability of motorsport, a lot of possible opportunities.

I think about two things. One, let’s see where we’ll be in five years, if we’re stable enough, if we’ve grown enough. Two, let’s see if motorsport [has become more affordable], because today it’s too expensive. If that changes, maybe we’ll see something different.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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