Lamborghini is cautiously optimistic about its chances of surviving the global credit crunch despite its rival Ferrari suffering from a few problems. Ferrari will be shedding jobs, has shut down production for 20 days over the Christmas-New Year holiday, and is not reopening until Jan 7. Looking more like a limping foal than a proud stallion, Ferrari only sold 92 cars in November, down from an average of almost 600 per month.
Stephan Winkelmann, Lamborghini's CEO and president, however says the roaring bull has no plans to cut staff. "2008 has been a record year in turnover, profit and sales and we will be releasing the figures next year." The Abu Dhabi International Motor Show was an important part of the brand's ongoing success in the Middle East. "We have made sales, it has been a positive event," says Winkelmann, although he won't give exact numbers on how many cars Lamborghini sold at the motor show. "It is also a press event and that is good as it keeps people aware of the brand."
"We are very interested in bringing at least one new product to market in 2009 and we have entrepreneurs who are willing to open more showrooms," he says. "Because of our long waiting times, we have flexibility." Winkelmann is tight-lipped on what the new product would be, and would not confirm whether it would be the Lamborghini Estoque. Launched at the Paris Motor Show, the Estoque is a stunning four-door coupe, but Winkelmann says it will remain as a concept car - for now. "Paris was a test for the market and it was a test that was passed brilliantly. The Estoque has the Lamborghini values of being uncompromising, extreme and Italian."
Other new innovations for the Sant'Agata factory include the new Gallardo Spyder, a 5.0-litre V10, and a limited edition Lamborghini designed in collaboration with the Versace fashion house. Only 20 of these will be made and they can only be ordered in black or white. The Versace Lamborghini was going to make an appearance at the Abu Dhabi Motor Show but, unfortunately, it remained unseen after issues with customs.
Amid the optimism, Winkelmann is also realistic about the forthcoming hard economic times with fewer people in the market for high-end cars. "Nobody is immune from the credit crunch - it will be a tough year ahead." Reflecting on the year that has just gone by, Winkelmann smiles when asked about a Qatari Lamborghini owner, believed to be a member of the royal family, who flew his Lamborghini to London and back for an oil change. This trip, which took place in July this year and is believed to have cost around Dh110,000, had environmental activists outraged.
"The customers can do what they want," is Winkelmann's response to claims of ecological irresponsibility, adding that the owner's decision to send the car on a 6,500km round trip for an oil change was "unusual even for a Lamborghini owner." While other manufacturers are making hybrid vehicles and investigating alternative fuels, the chances of seeing a hybrid or an electric Lamborghini on the market any time soon are slim.
"We produce around 2,000 cars per year so our global emissions are almost zero," says Winkelmann. "The new Gallardo has reduced its CO2 emissions by 80 per cent in comparison to its predecessor. "This is a good step forward and we take the issue very seriously - we are part of the Volkswagen group so we have access to the latest technology." Lamborghini also garnered plenty of positive press for its product placement of the Murcielago LP640 in The Dark Knight, the Batman movie released in July this year. "We think very carefully before agreeing to any product placement, but The Dark Knight was perfect for the brand," says Winkelmann.
To anyone who still has enough cash to spend on an expensive sports car, Winkelmann has a simple sales pitch: "It's niche within a niche - and it's faster." firstname.lastname@example.org