Stephan Winkelmann Chairman and CEO at Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A. speaks to Alp Sarper about Lamborghini and the next decade of electrification.
SW: Stephan Winkelmann – AS: Alp Sarper
SW: Thanks for joining. I’m sure you’re aware that we had a big announcement recently which was is with regards to our plans for the years to come, and I’m sure you have some questions.
If you want I can start with just a couple of minutes to get you into the picture. And then maybe some of the things you want to ask are already clarified and you can go more into detail if you wish.
As you know I arrived at Lamborghini about six months ago, and we sat down with Mr. Foschinito discuss the next stage in Lamborghini’s evolution.
As we all know, the Urus was the first, let’s say, rocket we sent into space. Because after having only two cars, Gallardo and Murcielago when I joined, we said we are too much out there to get into trouble if there is an economic crisis coming up, also regionally.
So we needed to have larger shoulders, stronger roots, and we needed, in our opinion, a third model. And this was, at that time, Urus. It took us a lot of time to get there.
But finally, in 2018, the car was launched. Since then, we really are much stronger and more resilient, also through crisis. In fact, also in the year 2020, we had one of our best years ever. It was the second-best year in every sense, at least in a pandemic situation.
So we can be lucky, but it’s also because we were the ones preparing ourselves for this already a decade before. This said, we sat together and we had the biggest challenge for the automotive industry, but for the world is the sustainability. But also the mindset and the change of the mindset, especially for the younger generation.
We divided the next four years in two. The first two, ’21 and ’22, are very much related to news coming out of the existing models, all of our internal combustion engines. For Huracán, for Aventador, but also for Urus. And then in the years ’23 and ’24, we’re going to hybridise all of our lineup. We will start with the Aventador in ’23 and we will end at the end of ’24 with the Huracán.
This will enabe us to reduce the emissions by 2025 by 50 percent. And we will be the first super sports car manufacturer to have all the lineup hybridised. I think it’s important because today if you buy something you don’t ask if it’s sustainable, it’s for granted and it’s a condition. We sell almost 50 percent of our cars to the millennials and generation Z.
On the other hand, it’s clear that for us it’s tougher than for other brands because we have to keep the balance between reducing CO2 emissions while maintaining the DNA of the brand. So the cars have to be performance-oriented, but really performance-oriented, not only slightly like the cars of today. They have to be better than the competition, to be an aspirational brand and cars. And they always have to be better than the generation before in terms of performance, in terms of balance, this is what we are committed to.
AS: Thank you very much for the detailed introduction. With the Urus, you’ve mentioned in 2020 it was a huge success, especially here in UAE. I believe you have all the numbers. Nobody expected to see the Urus as popular as it is in Dubai.
In relation to that, do you have pland for a seven-seater or something smaller, a crossover perhaps? Since you seem to have the secret recipe for exactly what your customers are waiting for?
SW: In the next three and a half years, we will invest in the three cars I was talking about and the hybridization. One and a half billion euros. This is a big thing and it’s the biggest investment we’ve ever had or we’re going to have in Lamborghini. And for sure, we are thinking about what is going to happen after ’25.
In the second half of this decade, the idea is to have a fourth model. We want to divide, the lineup in two. The pure super sports cars like Huracán and Aventador. And then on the other side, the Urus, which is the super sports car in this segment. And the fourth model, we are still deciding on that, it will probably be the first full electric car. Could be a two-plus-two, a two-door, or at least it should be a four-seater.
AS: This is after 2025 or before?
SW: No, after 2025, for the second half of the decade for sure.
AS: You mentioned 1.5 billion of investment. How much of that is going into your Sant’Agata plant?
It’s all related. I can’t give exact details, but the investment is overall and something which we will do a bit more down the road, but it’s about the cars, the base investment is in the cars. Normally, if you have 100 percent, you have more than half in the cars, then you have 20 to 25 in purchasing, and the rest is then going into the plant and offices.
AS: To continue on that question, how much tech are you going to borrow from sister brands?
SW: If we speak about Huracán and Aventador, the chassis, the engine, the battery technology will all come from Sant’Agata, so it’s our engineering. When it comes down to the Urus, we have a common platform with the group. But if you drive our car and compare it with the others, there is a huge difference. And this is what we will keep doing in the future, the customers appreciate it.
AS: Is Lamborghini planning to implement different design elements on the hybrid editions? Perhaps a dedicated logo? Other changes?
SW: We looked at this question years back, but I’m convinced that we won’t have a green logo or a bright pink one for that matter, it’s the next generation. Perhaps there could be an ‘I’, because as you know when we speak about the engine, we say ‘LP’ that stans for Longitudinale Posteriore in English, mounted longitudinally behind the driver, so inline with that
We might place and ‘I’ for Ibrido, which is Italian for hybrid. This could be an idea, but it’s not decided yet. But we will not have an extra design or an extra approach. It has to be a perfect fit. The design has to be a clear Lamborghini.
AS: Customers love to show that they are driving a hybrid engine or a fully electric engine. Regarding that, you mentioned Aventador is going to be the first one to be launched with hybrid engine, is that right?
AS: Then Urus and then Huracán?
AS: Does Lamborghini have a benchmark in the market in terms of hybridization of the fleet?
SW: No. I’ll you two examples. We are in the market with our V12 which is a mid-rear engine and is unique. Even after decades, nobody was able to put something like this on the market. We were the first ones with the Urus in entering this market. As a brand itself, Lamborghini was never only a super sports car manufacturer. It was a GT manufacturer. It was two-plus-two with the Espada, a super sports car. We had the first SUV, the LM002. And also if we speak about electrification, we think that… We know this is arrogance we might have when it’s the right time to come with a hybrid or with full electric. Because we are convinced it’s not about being the first but being the best when you enter the market. To answer your question, we are not following anyone
AS: How about fully electric?
SW: Well that is going to take longer time, it will be in the second part of the decade, not before ‘2027.
AS: Big news and you chose to come to the UAE first, Any particular message or reason behind that?
SW: No message. I’m always glad to be in the Middle East, we has some events which we had to keep postponing due to COVID, finally, we had the opportunity. So it’s by chance. But I’m glad, because it’s a more difficult market in general, the Middle East, for the new technology like hybridization. It’s a good opportunity to speak to our partners and customers, to better understand what they think about what is coming up in the future.
AS: What kind of effect do you see a hybrid model has in sales?
SW: I’ll give you some historical examples. The first real twelve-cylinder car was the Miura, and we did less than 900 cars of a life cycle. Then the second one was the Countach. We did less than 2000. Then with the Diablo, less than 3000. Then was the Murcielago which was 4099. Now we have the Aventador with more than 10,000 cars already produced. I’m 100 percent sur that we’re going to do more on the follow-up than on the previous. The same goes for the ten-cylinder models, Gallardo and Huracán.
AS: The Gulf (GCC) market, compared to the globe, where do we stand?
SW: I’ll give you the numbers. Number one is the US followed by China. Then we have the German market, then we have UK. We have Japan and then comes the Middle East. So, it’s a very important market for us. It’s a market which is growing thanks to the Urus. For example in Dubai, the balance is 50-50 between super-sports cars and the Urus.
AS: One more point, you famously said combustion should go on as long as it can. How long is ‘as long as it can’?
SW: When I speak about electric cars it’s important to consider that we have to split the lineup. I think if we have the infrastructure, the range and the consciousness of the people, then electrification can progress very fast. We need to have the daily usability of the combustion engine, in a Urus for example.
Take the super sports cars, where electrification is linked to performance, so we need the boost. We need to have a battery which enables the best lap time without the burden of the extra weight of the battery. Also without discharging the battery completely but recharging it automatically. These are important technological advances that we need.
Therefore I think if we get into the direction of having synthetic fuels which enable to further reduce emissions in the next decade, then there is an opportunity to keep the internal combustion engines running. This would be our dream in Lamborghini to have this to be seen.
AS: It’s good to hear. Because at the end, I probably speak for all petrol heads, we’re all big fans of the combustion engine. Especially yours.
SW: We, too.
AS: How do you view these new startup companies, the newcomers to the market? Every couple of investors who make money on crypto starts a car manufacturing company, and they want to build a supercar.
SW: Every single day, we’re receiving a new press releases and new names of star-ups in the automotive sector, and they are welcome, because this means that there are still entrepreneurs who are willing to invest and to go into the car business. Let’s take Ferruccio Lamborghini, he did exactly that, he was an entrepreneur and he was doing it out of a challenge. It’s incredibly tough, it’s time and money-consuming, very few will be able to do so but we welcome the entrepreneurs.
Closing Comments by SW
I have to say these are going to be very interesting years for Lamborghini for all of us. Because this is a big change and we must be the best in the market, otherwise we are not going to survive. And we don’t see competitors, we see ourselves as the ones who are leading the pack.
Interview date: May 2021