In the 11 years since Stephan Winkelmann became president and CEO of Lamborghini, the Italian supercar-maker has grown tremendously while weathering some tough economic times.
This week, Lamborghini’s parent company — Audi — confirmed that Winkelmann will become the new head of its Quattro subsidiary in March.
The outgoing Lamborghini boss will now be responsible for Audi’s high performance R and RS models.
He will be replaced at Lamborghini by former Ferrari F1 boss Stefano Domenicali.
During Winkelmann’s tenure, Lamborghini launched a new flagship model — the Aventador — as well as a new entry-level car, the Huracán.
And in 2018, the VW Group-owned brand will introduce a new SUV: Urus.
In November, Winkelmann sat down with Business Insider at the opening of the company’s new New York showroom at Manhattan Motorcars.
Here are four big takeaways from the interview:
On how the Urus will change the Lamborghini
The arrival of the company’s third model will mean major changes for the company.
“It’s a major step for Lamborghini because we are almost doubling the size of our company,” Winkelmann said. “If you have 10 models and you add one, it’s a major effort, but it’s not as difficult as what we are doing [with the Urus].”
The addition of an SUV could have the same effect on Lamborghini that it did for Porsche more than a decade ago. SUVs represent roughly 60% of Porsche’s US sales.
In 2014, Lamborghini had its best year in company history with 2,530 cars sold worldwide, a 19% increase over 2013.
On the performance of the Urus
“It will be the supercar among the SUVs,” Winkelmann said.
But it also adds a different dimension to the company’s lineup of cars.
He said: “Our supercars are not meant to be used as daily drivers. Even if they are very daily drivable, it’s not their mission. With the Urus, it’s a car that can go fast, but it’s not designed with a focus on the top speed or acceleration. It’s a car designed to be comfortable and be a daily driver with a cruising attitude. This will be the key to its success.”
On the difference between Ferrari and Lamborghini
“We are a brand that’s very different from Ferrari,” Winkelmann said. “From the beginning we did a GT car, a 2+2 in the Espada and we built the LM002 [a Hummer-like SUV], in the past.”
He added: “We are not only a super-sports-car company, and in the last 10 years we really focused on this.”
On why there won’t be any electric or hybrid Lamborghinis in the near future
Although the disruption of the auto industry by high-tech newcomers, such as Tesla, has been good, battery-powered cars have a long way to go in terms of range and top speed, the Lamborghini CEO said.
Much of this can be attributed to the added weight of the cars’ heavy battery packs.
Winkelmann pointed out that added weight compromises the handling of battery-powered cars.
He said: “You might be able to go fast, but driveability in and out of the corners is not there. The power-to-weight balance is one of the key elements for our cars. It’s not enough to go fast. In the past [the order of importance] was top speed, acceleration, and handling. Acceleration is still No. 2, but top speed and handling have changed places.”
As a result, Lamborghini does not plan to have an all-electric or hybrid powertrain in any of its supercars, but future generations of the Urus SUV may get a hybrid system.
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