Lamborghini sold more cars than ever before in 2015 but says there's much more to come, boldly asserting its first SUV, the Urus, will double its global sales.
The Urus program is the 55-year-old company's largest-ever single investment, including a new plant being built and 500 jobs created. It is its most audacious move, seeking to capitalise on a market that seemingly can't get enough of super-premium SUVs.
Company CEO Stephan Winkelmann told Executive Style the Urus will be a "game-changer" and believes he can "double" the 3245 sports cars he sold globally in 2015 when the SUV is rolled out across all its markets in 2018.
"Now we think that the next step has come and there is a brand which is really ready for a third model," he says. "On one hand it is going to double the volumes, on the other hand it can't dilute the values of the brand or change the brand."
The Urus is set to push the envelope for "Lamborghini DNA", as Winkelmann calls it, by packing a bi-turbo V8 engine. It marks the first time the brand will turn its back on the naturally aspirated V10 and V12 engines that give the high-revving, instantaneous response and engine bark that the brand's fans adore.
It must have full Lamborghini DNA in terms of performance and design.Maurizio Reggiani, Lamborghini R&D director
"With the Urus we will be having the first engine with the bi-turbo, so we will have lower CO2 emissions than the naturally aspirated engines, but in an SUV you have a different driving behaviour and you have different needs," he says.
Another bombshell looms for customers. "With the Urus we also have the opportunity for the first time to maybe have a second engine in the car and if we are going to do this it is going to be a plug-in hybrid," Winkelmann says.
But he is stopping short of selling the whole farm – for now, confirming a diesel engine is not in the current plan.
"I have learned one thing in my life, to never say never. But it's clear that if you have one car, one engine then you have to catch as much countries as possible for the homologation," he says. "So diesel is a no-go if you have just one engine. In the future who knows what is going to happen but at the time being there is no plan for a diesel."
Meeting customer demand
Lamborghini research and development director Maurizio Reggiani says the company surveyed existing owners around the world to prove the need for the SUV.
"We made an investigation with the Lamborghini customer and discovered that everyone will like a car like this, it is like a second or third or fourth car," he says.
"We did a survey where we tried to understand their reaction worldwide and it was very positive and this was one of the reasons we decided to put it into production."
The blueprint for Lamborghini's SUV plan is likely to have come from Porsche, which like Lamborghini belongs to the giant Audi group. Introduced in 2002 amid much controversy, the Cayenne SUV is Porsche's best seller. Far from hurting the brand's image, it has enabled Porsche to channel more money into sports car development and a second, smaller SUV line that is also selling strongly.
Other makers as prestigious as Bentley, Maserati and Jaguar have all invested heavily in SUVs, and even Rolls-Royce is deep in development of a concept. However, Lamborghini's fiercest rival, Ferrari, has sworn it will never cross that bridge, while McLaren has ruled out a production model but says it will consider creating a one-off model if a customer asks for it. Aston Martin produced a concept, the DBX, but has confirmed it will not put it into production.
'The best by any measure'
Reggiani confirmed earlier comments made by Winkelmann that Lamborghini will stop at nothing to ensure the Urus is the best SUV in the world by any measure.
"These are the specifications for us for the project - to be the best in terms of dynamics, it must be exceptional in terms of comfort, in terms of quality, and must have full Lamborghini DNA in terms of performance and design," he says.
"We use the experience inside the (Audi) group to learn what we don't have in our (company). We study what they do but we must customise in order to not have a Porsche or an Audi but to have a full Lamborghini."
Lamborghini won't speculate on pricing yet for the Urus SUV but given a mission statement to be the best of the best, there's unlikely to be much change out of $500,000 when it hits Australian roads in 2018.
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