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Stephan Winkelmann pictured in Dubai this week. Courtesy of Lamborghini
Stephan Winkelmann pictured in Dubai this week. Courtesy of Lamborghini

Lamborghini’s boss looks into the supercar company’s future

Kevin Hackett talks to the Lamborghini president and CEO Stephan Winkelmann during his trip to Dubai this week.

It’s a Sunday afternoon at Dubai’s Emirates Towers hotel and there are 50-odd Lamborghinis prowling around outside, gathered from all over the GCC. In a city that’s seen and done it all, cars like these still turn heads and cause onlookers to reach for their camera phones to take pictures and videos, which is one of the reasons that their owners love them. If you’re a Lambo owner, it goes without saying that you’re not the shy-and-retiring type. You like a bit of ­attention.

The company’s remarkable renaissance over the past decade, whether he cares to admit it or not, is mainly down to the vision of its president and CEO, Stephan Winkelmann, and he’s in town to lead the processions over two days that will celebrate Lamborghini’s half-century at the end of what has been an extraordinary year for him and the firm that he represents. And while he’s here he’d like to talk business with The National.

“For us, this is the third-biggest region after the US and China,” he says, as we take a seat. “And this year has gone well, very stable. We have had the run out of the Gallardo [its replacement will be unveiled very soon] and we’re at full capacity with the Aventador. Worldwide, the market is stable, but it’s still not at a level where we’d like to see it.

“Next year will be a year of selling more than delivering for us, as the new V10 production will be ramping up and we won’t reach full speed with that until 2015. The business is still tough, but it’s better than we expected.”

He says that Lamborghini delivered 150 or so cars to the region this year and that expectations are even higher for next year. A new dealership will be opening in Abu Dhabi’s Corniche area at the beginning of 2014, too, so it’s evident that there are high hopes for the UAE market. “We experienced a growth of more than 80 per cent in sales here between 2011 and 2012 – people here obviously love what we’re doing.”

Winkelmann is no doubt fed up with fielding questions about the slew of hybrid hypercars that we’re seeing emerge at the moment, but I still want to hear first-hand what he thinks. “The super sports car market this year represented just 25,000 sales worldwide, so it’s still an incredibly small niche,” he advises. “For us as a [Volkswagen] group member, we could be first in line for all this new technology, but we have to consider what our customers expect and what fits in with the DNA of the brand. And, right now, we see the best innovations as being elsewhere.”

Lamborghini has become a world-renowned centre of excellence when it comes to carbon fibre technology, and one of the benefits that this has brought its cars, apart from their sheer strength of construction, is lower weight which, in turn, makes for better efficiency. “We are very much looking into these sorts of innovations, always trying to find ways to make our cars lighter,” says Winkelmann.

But what about the Urus SUV? It was given the green light during the summer, but all seems to have gone a bit quiet – and if there’s one region where it’s sure to be a huge success, it’s this one. He knows it, too. “A third model will help us obviously,” he admits, “but it must not dilute the brand and it has to fit in with our niche marketing.” So no diesels or hybrid powertrains in sight? “Never say never,” he laughs, “but consider that, with other manufacturers, there might be one model with six engine options. We always produce one model, one engine, so we have to go for something that’s suitable worldwide.”

Winkelmann turned 49 this year, which means that Lamborghini was in business a year before his birth. Which model in its history, then, does he think best sums up the values of the company? “The Miura and the Countach,” he says, perhaps predictably. “They both shook the world for different reasons and we continue that tradition today.” I couldn’t agree more.

khackett@thenational.ae

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