Currently reading: How electric Lamborghinis will "keep the dream alive"
In exclusive interview, CEO Stephan Winkelmann outlines his priorities as pure-V10 and V12 cars bow out

Lamborghini boss Stephan Winkelmann says the firm needs to transition to the “new world order” within the next decade, “without destroying the dreams of the customers”.

The German, who in 2020 returned to Lamborghini for his second spell as CEO, is heading up major changes at the firm, including overseeing its last combustion-engined model. Autocar caught up with Winkelmann to discuss his to-do list, the brand’s place during a global recession and future plans as it heads into the electrified age.

You were at Lamborghini for a long time, then left from 2016 to 2020. Now you’re back, does this feel like home?

“The longer you stay in a company, the more you get close to the company. With Lamborghini, it was love at first sight. So we could develop the brand, the products, the strategy in a time where you can see the results coming and you see the output of the input. This is giving you confidence – or not – but it’s giving you the value of the effort you put in. Lamborghini is easy to like.”

Do you prefer it now that you can focus 100% on Lamborghini (Winkelmann had a stint as president of Bugatti)?

"I have to say that Bugatti was an incredible experience. It's a gem, this brand. And I think that we just started to do some of the things which were important, in my opinion, for the brand and for the model line-up. And I hope that everything they're doing next continues to value the brand, but at the end of the day, the reality is that I'm back at Lamborghini. I love the job, and I have no wish to be somewhere else."

What things remain on your to-do list? 

“The biggest effort we have in front of us is the transition from the old world to the new world without destroying the dreams of the customers. This is the job for this decade until the beginning of the 2030s. It has to be done.”

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What does Lamborghini mean to you with reference to electrification? 

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"We're not selling mobility, we're selling dreams. So you have to keep the dream alive, you have to keep the promise that cars are performance [orientated]. And it's not only about the longitudinal acceleration, about numbers, but also about the motion and the lateral acceleration. I think this is going hand-in-hand with the new generation [of customers] stepping into this type of world and accepting it more than maybe 10 or 20 years ago."

Where is the focus for Lamborghini as we approach that age of electrification?

“There are four pillars in my head. Design and performance, these are things that we have always done. The other two? It is the perceived performance. So how you feel, how engaged you are. Like a pilot. The other one is the sound. These are the things that are the most challenging, so the sound is something where we have to see what is coming up. I don’t want to say it’s easy – it will be different from today. 

“We are already working on perceived performance. I think that the software is going to take major steps to help us improve lateral acceleration and the direction of the contact between machine and driver. These things are paramount for success.”

Is there room within Lamborghini for a Porsche Taycan rival?

"Well, for this model it will be an idea of a GT two plus two. With more ground clearance, I'm sure about that. I think that this is a good choice and can be a new body style, a new design approach, but still very much a real Lamborghini."

Now that Audi is saying goodbye to the V10, how will the Hurracan replacement be different as a result?

"The difference [with the current Hurracan] will be huge not only in terms of design, but also in terms of powertrain because we will have a hybridisation system. We will have a completely new engine. But we are not revealing how many cylinders."

What is Lamborghini’s peak sales figure, in an ideal world?

"It depends on the segments. It's clear that if you have a segment like the SUV segment, even if it's the top end, you have a bigger market. But you always have to pay attention to the fact that you have to sell less than demand. You have to pay attention to the residual values. Today, if you buy a Lamborghini you have to wait at least 18 months. And if you want to buy one immediately, a used car, you have to pay more than the sticker price. 

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"And so there must be a balance between the wealth in the world, which is growing constantly, and the amount of cars we are willing to build. Another thing is we have a high, high capital-intensive business and much more than the other luxuries or accessories like fashion, watches, jewellery. Because the technology is proceeding at a speed which was unknown in the decades before, we have to be rock solid. And we always have to find a balance between the request of the market and the need of us to be able to reinvest in the future. The Urus was one of these moves designed not to dilute the value of the brand, but growing out of the core, which is the super sports cars. 

"A real number I cannot give you because it will always change. And also when we get a fourth model, we will go north."

What is Lamborghini’s relationship like with the rest of the VW Group?

"There are benefits of this so it's a good relationship. The future is even more about software and all about digitalisation. And then we will have a huge advantage than similar size companies, which will not get this extra benefit and this technology, to apply them to a quality and to a quantity which the market is demanding."

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In a world where many people are struggling with their finances at the moment, is there an issue with Lamborghini selling such expensive cars? 

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“We are not immune to a big crisis. And it’s also a matter of social responsibility if you are an entrepreneur who has to lay off people because of all the [economic] reasons, if you then want to be seen in a car like ours. “Like the [self-] rewarding after Covid, when that was exploding and everybody was pushing into our type of brands – we have not reached the end of it. Every month, we are selling more cars than we are able to deliver, so the order bank is increasing. There will be a tipping point for sure.”

Societies around the world are now paying much more attention to things such as ostentatious wealth and the environment. Does that present a danger to Lamborghini in the future?

“This is on us and our customers, because we always have to be ahead of the wave. So sustainability and performance – for me sustainability, for you performance, and vice versa – are the keys for success. “And let’s be honest, the discussion about sustainability is very emotional. We are selling fewer than 10,000 cars in a world that is selling more than 70 million cars every year. “But our brand is much bigger than the footprint of the brand. So we have to be extra careful. This is why we already started being CO2 neutral in our plant at Sant’Agata.”

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